Why Change the Protocol Now?

This Tuesday (7/9) the City Council will consider a policy change in how a City Councilmember can place an item on the agenda. Currently, any councilmember can request an item be placed on a future agenda.

In a memo addressed to City Manager, John Russo, Mayor Christina Shea and Councilmember Mike Carroll want to change the protocol for City Council initiated agenda items. It bears notice that both were appointed to their recent positions, not elected like the rest of the council.

The new proposal is to require “(i) at least two members of the City Council, or (ii) the Mayor” to sign off on requesting any item to be placed on the agenda.




Why change the protocol?
The memo states that the purpose of the change is for the City Council to “focus its efforts on core items of city business”. Have recent agenda items distracted from “core items of city business”?

Not a bad idea?
This change is for getting items on the agenda. Given that our City Council consists of 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats, and 1 NPP (No Party Preference), getting the support of one other councilmember should not be be difficult. And if the ultimate goal is to get 3 votes on an item, doesn’t having the support from one other councilmember to get it on the agenda make sense? In other words, if you don’t have the support of even one councilmember, what is the ultimate goal of placing it on the agenda? This change would prevent any one councilmember from using the council agenda for purposes other than city business for our public benefit.

Will this encourage backroom deals?
The public is not going to be privy to any discussions going on behind the scenes on this item. A potential problem could arise for a councilmember if the first councilmember they go to is not in support, could they then go to another councilmember and ask for their support without violating the Brown Act? In such a predicament, are there any workarounds without violating the Brown Act?

Why give the Mayor greater authority than the Councilmembers?
Under the City Manager form of government, the mayor is a ceremonial position and thus all five of the councilmembers are equal with regards to their power and authority. Members do not represent districts or pockets of the city — they individually serve all the residents. Why should the mayor have the sole power to place items on the agenda when his/her fellow councilmembers do not?