The Greensboro City Council “hybrid” work session on Tuesday, June 1 was typical, if anything can be called typical in 2021.
In a “hybrid” meeting, most of the City Council and much of the staff are in the council chamber, but the public is not invited to the meeting and public participation is by Zoom.
The work session started late and the City Council only discussed one of the three items on the agenda in public, which is typical because the City Council almost never finishes a work session agenda.
Most of the talking by councilmembers was done by Councilmember Sharon Hightower, which is typical for regular meetings as well as work sessions.
It appears that the de facto rules for council meetings is that the other seven councilmembers may request the right to speak and then are placed in a queue by Mayor Nancy Vaughan in order according to when they make the request. However, Hightower is allowed to speak whenever she wants. She doesn’t wait in line and often has spoken two or three times on a topic before other councilmembers who are waiting to be called on by Vaughan get to speak once.
Vaughan recognizes the other seven councilmembers to speak, and perhaps one out of three times recognizes Hightower. Most of the time Hightower simply starts speaking.
At times Hightower, who evidently always has the floor, won’t even allow Vaughan to speak. What some councils, commissions and boards do is allow everyone the opportunity to speak once on a topic before any member is allowed to speak a second time. If that rule were implemented, which could be done by a majority vote of the City Council, it would radically alter City Council meetings and, in what may be an election year, it would also give the other seven councilmembers more face time before the election.
In keeping with typical work sessions, even though only one matter – the budget – on the agenda was discussed in public, the work session did not adjourn in time for the City Council meeting to start on time.
Councilmembers have suggested that work sessions be held on days when the City Council does not have a regular meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m., so that the work sessions wouldn’t keep pushing back the beginning of council meetings. But for some unknown reason it has been rare for this council to meet more than two days a month, which means work sessions have to be held on regular City Council meeting days.