Council meetings move to Tuesdays beginning September
Members say they need more time to review agenda information
Have you ever read through an entire agenda – and the lengthy statements and supporting information – that Valdez City Council members need to review at least twice a month before Monday meetings?
Apparently, council members are having a tough time reading all that information.
By a unanimous vote Monday night, the council voted to switch its traditional meetings from the first and third Mondays of each month to the first and third Tuesday.
“This amendment shall become effective as of the first regular meeting of September 8, 2015,” the ordinance says.
The September change is supposed to give the Parks and Recreation and Ports and Harbor Commission members time to adapt their regular meeting schedules.
The Ports and Harbor Commission has its meetings the first and second Tuesday of each month; the Parks and Recreation Commission meets monthly on the second Tuesday of each month. New meeting dates for these commissions was not clear at the time of publication.
Critics of city government sometime complain that change comes too slowly. This change came quickly.
Robert Jean, the city’s interim city manager, said the topic came up a week ago Saturday during a council work session held to discuss council goal with city administration.
“It took on a life of its own,” Jean said before council voted on the matter Monday night. As council members discussed the time consuming process of reading through materials submitted in agendas to support council decision making and frustration with gathering information from city staff to clarify issues in the statements and supporting documents, “council said why can’t we just wait a day.”
The change will have an adverse affect on news coverage of the meetings, a fact several council members said was not taken into consideration when the matter was first considered at the work session.
The Valdez Star wrote a letter to council members pointing out the fact that timely council news will not be available to the public in the newsprint once the change is implemented.
Contractual obligations and printing schedules that dictate the Valdez Star printing schedule prohibit the newspaper from publishing the newspaper later in the week.
The Valdez Star pointed out pitfalls of changing meeting days in its letter to council.
“While the Valdez Star recognizes the fact that not all council business is covered by the newspaper, it is also recognized that a large number of voters in Valdez rely on the newspaper for information on pertinent matters relating to city government,” the letter said. “Not everyone can make time to listen to the radio broadcast of council meetings, and it should also be noted that the radio broadcast area does not cover all residential areas of Valdez and that not all citizens have high enough quality broadband service to be able to follow meetings online – or the time needed to follow these meetings.”
While not questioning the integrity of council members, the letter suggested that council questions regarding the agenda should be asked in the light of public scrutiny.
“It should also be pointed out that the public is better served by council when pertinent questions to city administration regarding issues before council are asked in public rather than behind closed doors,” the letter said.
Council member Jim Shirrell bristled at the suggestion that council members were looking to circumvent the public process. He said that, as a body, council was looking to be better informed before making big decisions.