Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Council Reform

If you scroll back through the minutes of the Common Council, you will find that there have been committees of the Common Council for at least 150 years. Council presidents have created new committees, abolished existing committees, altered the names of committees, but there have always been committees. Last night, Council president Tom DePietro announced they would "no longer continue with the committee system." He explained that the committee meetings "have gotten out of hand, on the assumption that they are a public forum, which they are not, and have descended into free-for-alls." He asserted, "Meetings that are disjointed and held days apart have led to a certain disjointedness in City policy making and the Council getting its work done." 

DePietro's solution to the perceived problem is to collapse all of the business of the committee meetings into the monthly informal meeting of the Council. All committee subjects, all reports from department heads, and reports from "various quasi-governmental agencies" (DePietro mentioned HDC specifically) will happen at the informal meeting. 

Up until yesterday, there were eight committees, each holding a meeting that traditionally was scheduled to last for forty-five minutes--that's six hours of meeting time. How all that business, along with reports from agencies heretofore not required to report to the Common Council, will fit into one meeting hard to imagine.

Resolutions and other legislative initiatives now begin in committees. Up until now, it was a requirement that resolutions and laws come before the full Council from a committee. Last night, DePietro announced, "All resolutions will be funneled through my office," and he will determine if an ad hoc committee is needed "to shepherd them through." The rules of order adopted by the Council last night include this: 
Rule #4 Local Laws and Resolutions
All Resolutions and Laws shall be submitted in writing at the Informal Session for discussion before submission to the Formal Session. This rule may be waived by the President of the Council when deemed necessary. Any matter, motion, proposed resolution or law introduced at the Informal or Formal Session, the President, at his sole discretion, may assign it to the appropriate ad hoc Committee(s), or place it on the Agenda for consideration by the Council. A petition by three members of the Council to the full Council will be sufficient to discharge a draft law or resolution and bring it up for consideration by the Council.
There is also this rule, which is unaltered from last year, although then it was Rule #10.
Rule #8 Non-Members Addressing the Council
At the discretion of the Chair, non-members, after identifying themselves and providing their place of residence, may address a question before the Council or new business at the new business portion of the meeting, in each case, after council members have discussed the issue at hand. As with council members, non-members first must be recognized by the Chair. The Chair has the authority to limit the number of speakers and the time allocated to each person.
The 2021 Rules of Order can be found here.

Also at the organizational meeting, it was announced that Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) will continue as majority leader and Rebecca Wolff (First Ward), the only alderman who is not currently a registered Democrat, will continue as minority leader.



  1. Is this the councils president way to curtail some members,and we all know who they are ,to shut the F up and do the work they were elected to do .and about time to .Pontificating Babbling Wasters...

  2. Meetings have descended into "Free-for-alls? What on earth is Pietro talking about? I have attended just about every HPD and DPW meeting over the past 3 years, and calling any one of those a free for all is simply false. What the cc president seems to have an issue with is any public participation, you know, asking dept heads questions that might not be softballs. Don't want the public to get involved in city government; want city hall to be more opaque? Hold a 4 hour meeting once a month. The meeting will cruise right along since no residents will bother attending the snorefest. This is absurd. B Huston