If you’re scheduled to speak at the next City Council town hall meeting, you’d better change your schedule.
The meeting won’t be held in the Council Chambers at city hall on Tuesday, July 9 as the schedule states, but will be held at the Barber Park Event Center which houses the Ruth Wicker Tribute to Women on Monday, July 8 presumably beginning at 5:30 p.m. But since everything else about the meeting has changed there is no guarantee the time will be left unchanged.
The least transparent City Council in decades, has once again made a major decision with no public discussion, much less input and it’s not about this one meeting.
According to an announcement made at the June 4 City Council meeting by Mayor Nancy Vaughan, beginning in July the first meeting of the month, the town hall meeting where the City Council gives people five minutes to speak on any topic they choose, will be held somewhere other than the Council Chambers, but other than the July meeting no one knows where these meetings will be held.
There was no public discussion by councilmembers and no vote. Vaughan simply said, “Starting with our first town hall meeting in July we are going to change our structure that we have all been talking about.” Vaughan later explained that the councilmembers had been discussing the topic amongst themselves and reached a decision. So evidently there was no need for any public discussion.
When Vaughan said that the location of the meeting would be changed in July, she apparently was not aware that the day of the meeting had also been changed because City Manager David Parrish explained to the City Council that the Barber Park Events Center was not available on Tuesday, July 9 the scheduled meeting date and he suggested Monday, July 8 as an alternative if city councilmembers didn’t have an issue with that date.
At the meeting Vaughan announced that the next five town hall type meetings would be held in a city building in each of the five City Council districts in order starting with District 1 in July. So the August meeting will be held in District 2 probably on Monday, August 5 or Wednesday, August 7 but it could be Tuesday, August 13 with the meeting location to be announced. The September meeting will be somewhere in District 3 and it could be on Tuesday, Sept. 3. The October meeting will be held in District 4 and November meeting in District 5, probably on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday in the first week or two of each month. So if you were planning on attending make certain you mark your calendars and have your GPS device ready so you can find the meeting.
Meeting off site has been tried by past City Councils and has always been short lived because they have been dismal failures for a variety of reasons. People inevitably show up for meetings at city hall. At one infamous City Council meeting that was held at the Kitchen Operations Center on South Elm-Eugene Street even reporters and councilmembers showed up at city hall and the meeting was delayed until enough councilmembers arrived to have a quorum.
There are advantages to meeting at city hall in the Council Chamber. It is centrally located. People know where it is. Since meetings start at 5:30 there is plenty of parking available downtown. It’s large room that can usually handle the crowd.
But Vaughan in making the announcement said, “And those meetings will not be televised because they are going to be in libraries or city buildings that don’t have the facilities.”
The City Council won’t say it publicly, but not having the town hall meetings televised seems to be the main reason the meetings are being moved out of the Council Chamber. The off the record stated belief of members of the City Council is that if the meetings are not televised that the same people who have now been coming to meetings for over a year speaking about the same topics and being disruptive won’t bother to come if they aren’t going to be on television.