Not at all!
I know that this has sometimes been an accusation of some city council tables by some folks … at some times.
In my recent experience, this is far from the case and I often find myself actually craving more time for a fuller discussion – all in a public session of course.
One aspect of council’s workflow may perhaps contribute to that initial impression though.
By the time that most agenda items are on our final agenda, they have been discussed previously (usually at full length) at various committee and input sessions. Speaking for myself, I’ll often summarize my thoughts and positions at that final council session rather than go through my whole line of reasoning (and questions) that I’ve already discussed previously. I can see how someone sitting in the gallery might think this after an item is passed with not a huge amount of debate or discussion.
Development applications are a good example of this. There can be a much more comprehensive discussion at the development and planning committee stage. By the time the proposal in question arrives at the final council session, details, implications, positions and concerns are usually understood, have already been discussed and it’s usually the summarized positions that are given preceding a vote.
At least that’s the case for me. It’s a balancing act requiring clarity of my position on the important aspects of the matter at hand while not repeating everything that has led up to my final position. I’m still trying to find that balance.
Council has recently started to record Development and Planning sessions that are available here. That should help if folks have the technology, time and inclination to follow the process. Monitoring what’s on the Development & Planning Agenda is another great way to stay in touch as is actually attending those Monday morning 8am sessions where practicable. Those agendas are found here.
I’ve also mentioned previously that signing up for notifications of upcoming agendas via the city’s Facebook or Twitter accounts works like a charm. You can also sign up for notifications right from the city directly here. As a council member, I get the upcoming agendas at the same time that they are made available to the public.
The bottom line on all of this is that if citizens are interested in particular agenda items, it takes a degree of work to follow the process. That includes: Monitoring when the items are on the various agendas, Attending if possible, Ensuring that avenues for input aren’t missed, Following the minutes and oh yes … Contacting your elected politicos.
What I see being done in advance is a whole lot of work in public to get to that final decision. It’s a process where most citizens aren’t able to attend for it all.