Minutes are called “minutes,” not “years.”

That was the message Greensboro City Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter had for City of Greensboro staff at the council’s Tuesday, March 19 meeting when the City Council was attempting to determine a zoning case without access to the minutes of the Greensboro Zoning Commission.

Abuzuaiter noted that it wasn’t the first time the council had been in that predicament.

At meetings of local governments – and the boards, commissions and committees of those governments – minutes are taken at each meeting so that everyone can later know what was done at a meeting and why it was done.

At the March 19 Greensboro City Council meeting, Abuzuaiter told city staff it was difficult to appropriately determine zoning cases if the council members don’t have the record of the discussion that led to previous decisions in a zoning case.

“Even though we appoint Zoning Commission members and I know that they are all very invested in the work they do for this city, and I also know staff is very invested in the work that they do for the city,” Abuzuaiter said, “this one concerns me and I would prefer, Mr. City Manager, that items not come before us unless we have the minutes from those meetings.  I just looked online and the Zoning Commission minutes are not done; they have not been put online since October.”

Abuzuaiter told city staff that she understands the city may be short-staffed, but she added that the council members really need the minutes for zoning cases and other matters if they are to make informed decisions.

“I really prefer to be able to bring up Zoning Commission meeting minutes,” she told staff.

Abuzuaiter said she knew she wasn’t the only City Council member who felt that way.

“That really helps us make our informed decision because we would take Planning Department [information], we would take Zoning Commission [minutes] and we would also listen to the applicant and those who are against.”

This same problem – meeting minutes taking a very long time to get done – was a big issue for Guilford County government for years, and some county commissioners would complain frequently about staff taking too long to do the minutes.  Over the last three years, the Guilford County Clerk to the Board’s Office has added several employees and now those complaints from commissioners have stopped.