Council discusses how to discuss
The Sonoma City Council spent well over an hour Monday night discussing whether or not to discuss further how they should conduct discussions and how many hours city staff should be allowed for council-related research, some of it on topics such as rules for holding discussions. In the end, they decided that discussing discussions was largely a waste of discussion.
Or so it seemed.
On the agenda were two items relating to council conduct, one involving possible adoption of a resolution regarding rules for placing items on the agenda, as well as rules for utilizing the time of staff and the city attorney for advice, research and analysis on items council members want on the agenda.
Council policy allows members to place items on any council agenda whenever they want, but it had become apparent that a limit was needed on the time staff devoted to council member requests, lest city employees become buried in member research. So, on Monday the council chose from three alternatives to adopt a rule allowing the city manager to allot up to a maximum of four hours on council agenda requests, with further time allotments requiring full council approval.
The second item, requested by Mayor Laurie Gallian, went a step further in requesting consideration for establishing council policies and procedures, as well as discussion of the possibility of creating a council committee on polices and procedures.
For that discussion, assistant city attorney Veronica Nebb provided procedure manuals from the cities of Corte Madera, Martinez and Novato, the last manual running 77 pages.
Gallian said the council had no standardized procedures, noting it had recently abolished a set of "norms" established earlier to guide council protocol. There seemed to be a need, she said, for "having a base, or framework" for doing council work.
That suggestion elicited an immediate reaction from Councilmember Tom Rouse who announced, "I don't like rules."
Ken Brown followed with the observation, "If you can make this non-laborious I'd be astounded ... I'm never going to agree to a dress code, unless it's to be fully dressed."
Steve Barbose added, "If it ain't broke don't fix it."
Gallian responded that the copious Novato rule book evolved over time and the assistant city attorney agreed that "rules of order can be helpful." She offered to read all of Novato's 77-page rule book to see what rules were salient for Sonoma.
Brown reacted to the potential legal billing for a rule book review, saying, "I don't think that's a good idea," and in the end the four present council members agreed (Joanne Sanders was out of town).
But Nebb won agreement that existing council policies - such as the amount of staff time allowed for councilmember research - simply be incorporated into an evolving manual.
And absolutely no one wanted to even discuss creation of a committee on council policies and procedures.
In other business, the council voiced unanimous opposition to extending the terms of honorary alcaldes to two years as a cost-cutting move. Council-watcher and former city council candidate Dave Cook called the suggestion "an injustice" to those who might be passed by under two-year terms.
Council members agreed and Ken Brown suggested simply imposing a $500 limit on city alcalde expenses with additional funds raised from the community as needed.
Members also agreed to a Brown request that the council swimming pool committee be disbanded, not because pool interest is waning but because Brown Act rules make it virtually impossible to conduct pool research, site visits and meetings without cumbersome noticing requirements. Without the committee, informal groups can gather information, visit other city's facilities and pull together plans and proposals more easily. That motion won unanimous support.
The council also heard a report on the progress of an ongoing study on solid waste management that is aimed at achieving diversion rates of 80 percent and 90 percent in the years to come. The county is currently diverting 66 percent of its solid waste away from landfills.
Earlier in the meeting, Gallian read a proclamation honoring Rick Arendt, former president of the Sonoma/Petaluma State Historic Parks Association, who passed away June 11.
Arendt's wife Janice was on hand to receive the proclamation.