Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 28, 2018

Time stuck

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

It’s good to know that the Open Government Commission has noted the chaos of the City Council meetings and has taken it upon itself to form a subcommittee to make recommendations to the City Council to help it work more efficiently.  Whether or not the City Council chooses to adopt the recommendation is a whole other thing.  But first the subcommittee’s recommendations  have to make it through the Open Government Commission.

Here’s what they are suggesting:

1. Repeal the original Rules of Order resolution, No. 12567, and any resolutions
amending it.
2. Introduce a new resolution adopting Rosenberg’s Rules of Order except for those
rules that may conflict with an express rule adopted by resolution of the city
3. Adopt special rules to supplement Rosenberg’s Rules of Order.

You can view a copy of Rosenberg’s Rules of Order on the agenda item.

But the subcommittee added supplemental rules to help move business along and they’re quite helpful, specifically:

Public comment will be allowed on all agenda items at the time each item is called. Those wishing to speak are requested to fill out a speaker slip identifying the agenda item about which they wish to address the body and submit the slip to the city clerk. Speakers shall limit comments to three (3) minutes or less, at the discretion of the chair. No speaker may cede time to another.

The subcommittee noted about that ceding time thing:

Ceding time from people who had no intention of speaking encourages abuse of extending 3-minute rule. It also discourages participation by more people. One long statement can be read by different speakers.

This recommendation is huge and would totally help with the time suck that is Councilmember speechifying:

Deliberations. Each member may speak up to three (3) times on an agenda item and
no more than three (3) minutes at a time.


Ceremonial presentations and proclamations shall be limited to no more than fifteen (15) minutes. If more time is needed, the time can be extended by majority vote.

It’s too bad the time that Councilmembers can question staff/consultants can’t be limited as well.  It would have gained the City Council a full 30 minutes had that been the case.


  1. Yes! These are intelligent suggestions for time management. Public discourse, held in an orderly, efficient way, is key to the democratic process. I hope these reforms, or ones similar to them, are considered and adopted soon.

    Comment by Kate Quick — February 28, 2018 @ 7:21 am

  2. The biggest challenge to an elected body like City Council or School Board in following some form of rules of order is that the rules indicate that motion is needed to start the discussion among the electeds. In almost all cases, electeds like to discuss the agenda item to get a sense of how their fellow electeds feel about the agenda item. This makes sense since the Brown Act precludes electeds from discussing public business in numbers that constitute a majority. Hence a feeling out of where everyone stands occurs prior to a motion. The real skill comes when the chair decides when to prod the body into making a motion.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — February 28, 2018 @ 7:37 am

  3. The public comment recommendations are good. People should also be encouraged to give written comments in advance.

    I wish that the pre-deliberation presentations could be shorted as well. I know they help people listening to the meeting follow along even if they haven’t read the agenda materials, but that means longer meetings.

    It can be difficult to draw a line between questions to staff/consultants by a councilmember who seeks information versus a councilmember who knows the answers to a series of leading questions and only wants the person at the microphone to nod or say yes periodically during what is really the councilmember’s speech. Though the line can be difficult to draw at times, at other times it is obvious and the mayor should be encouraged to tell the councilmembers that they are no longer questioning and to make their points during deliberations.

    Consider limiting the 3 3-minute bursts in deliberations to 2 minutes, with one additional lightning round of 1 minute. Perhaps you would more interaction and less speechifying. 3 minutes may be too much of an invitation to try to cram a not-always-illuminating explanation of one’s philosophy, training, background, social and political connections all into a discussion on whether to allow one or two dispensaries, the number of additional units in a development, or the pace of pot hole repairs. A councilmember’s vote and a brief explanation should be all the free candidate advertising we need to get from the council meeting.

    The Brown Act is an issue. Maybe we here in the peanut gallery can reserve extra credit points for those Councilmembers who get things moving by jumping right into the cold water.

    Comment by MP — February 28, 2018 @ 8:36 am

    • Who tells the Mayor that she is no longer questioning and instead needs to make her points during deliberations.

      Comment by Lauren Do — February 28, 2018 @ 9:52 am

      • Good point. Someone else. And if she were the only practitioner, it would be problem solved. Staff and consultants might also help by giving straightforward answers to the questions asked. We tend to get a lot of longwinded answers that avoid the small bit of info requested while giving lots of info not requested in order to demonstrate that the councilmember is asking a bad question or in anticipation of the conclusion the councilmember might draw from the info requested. Give us a little more credit than that. We can evaluate a councilmembers point on our own without extended time-consuming showdowns over the form of a question.

        Comment by MP — February 28, 2018 @ 10:17 am

      • Another approach by staff/consultant might be to answer the question and then, if feeling bound to do so, ask leave to add thoughts about how the question missed the point, etc. If councilmember cuts staffer/consultant off at that point, councilmember risks looking defensive, plus other councilmembers can pick up the question.

        Comment by MP — February 28, 2018 @ 10:39 am

    • Not a huge fan of written comment; it seems far less impactful than showing up.

      Comment by Jim Meyer — February 28, 2018 @ 12:12 pm

  4. Who is the scorekeeper and the timekeeper? Can’t be the mayor.

    Comment by abronto4900 — February 28, 2018 @ 11:28 am

    • A timer with a loud signal at 3 minutes, controlled by the city clerk?

      Comment by Jim Meyer — February 28, 2018 @ 12:11 pm

  5. I think the staff presentation is a very important part of the process and it should not be limited. It lays the groundwork for council questions, public comments, and council deliberations.

    I often learn something from the presentation and council questions following the presentation that helps inform my decision on the agenda item.

    The other important

    Comment by Karen — February 28, 2018 @ 12:26 pm

  6. The other important issue that came up for me during the last council session was the importance of governing and not losing site of larger goals and objectives we want to accomplish for the community we serve.

    It felt like the council lost their way last session. Many people would love to see the infrastructure bond measure go on the ballot. Hopefully we get another chance soon!

    Comment by Karen — February 28, 2018 @ 12:41 pm

  7. So why are Vella and Oddie still Council members after clearly violating the City Charter?

    Comment by Jack — February 28, 2018 @ 5:11 pm

    • Well, Jack, haven’t you sent your complaint in to the Alameda County Grand Jury yet? That may be the only way councilmembers can be held accountable for their actions. I just got asked on a phone poll if Oddie’s conduct would cause me not to vote for him.

      Comment by vigi — February 28, 2018 @ 6:43 pm

  8. Yeah, vigi I don’t pay much attention to local politics. My question in general is why we allow uninvited winged undocumented foreigners onto the Island, allow them to shit all over our sidewalks, feed them, provide security and provide a continuous water supply that they slurp up and what they don’t slurp up trickles into the gutter in this period of water conservancy.

    Comment by Jack — February 28, 2018 @ 8:26 pm

    • We’ve always looked the other way when it comes to Canadians. Time to build a net and make Trudeau pay for it.

      Comment by MP — February 28, 2018 @ 8:53 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at