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Council discusses ways to improve meetings

DEL MAR — With most meetings this year ending after 11 p.m., council members on Sept. 21 discussed half a dozen recommendations to improve the twice-monthly gatherings. Only about half were well-received.

With Terry Sinnott absent, the four legislators opposed starting meetings earlier because it would, as Don Mosier put it, “penalize people who work” because they would not be able to attend.

They also did not support adding a third meeting or eliminating reading the entire consent calendar, which includes mostly administrative items that are approved with a single vote unless removed for discussion by a member of council or the public.

Councilman Dwight Worden said the recommendation was tempting but hearing the consent calendar read out loud can be valuable “and some of the stuff is important.”

He and his colleagues did approve releasing the agenda for the regular Monday meetings earlier. State law requires the document to be available 72 hours before each meeting. Going forward it will come out on the Tuesday before the meetings rather than Thursday.

“The overriding concern I have in all of these things is I don’t feel like I’m able to do my best job as a council member under the current system,” Worden said.

For example, having access to the agenda on Thursday gives him only one business day to review 100 or more pages and get questions answered by staff.

Resident Jim Benedict suggested limiting speakers to one or two minutes rather than the three they currently are allowed during public comment times.

“I don’t think speakers need three minutes, he said, adding that oftentimes they repeat themselves or echo what others have already said.

Worden said limiting speaker time is “not a good message to give the community,” but it would not be inappropriate to prod them gently if they are being repetitive.

“I don’t think that we want to set rules that cut people’s right down too much,” he said.

“I think the process is working pretty well,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “We’ve had a lot of public interest in some of the things we’re doing. The public has a right to get up and speak. So I think we have to honor that.

“We can control it a little bit but they all have the right to get up and voice their opinions in a democracy so we have to live with that,” he added.

Council members said they would consider reducing speaker time if there are more than a given number of speakers — 10 or more, for example — on any one topic.

They also support encouraging a 15-minute presentation by people who share the same opinion on a given topic as opposed to having 15 or more people with similar views address the council individually for three minutes each.

All four also were in favor of limiting the number of people who can donate time to a speaker to one rather than the currently allowed two, so the longest presentation would be six minutes as opposed to nine.

Benedict said he would like to see some “sensitivity” to the community by moving controversial or popular items closer to the start of the meeting.

Additionally, Benedict suggested scheduling proclamations and the consent calendar at the end of the meetings, a recommendation council did not support.

Mayor Al Corti said he would work with the city manager to organize the agenda so hot button issues are discussed earlier.

Council liaisons will also be submitting short summaries of committee meetings to keep their colleagues updated on what the groups are doing.