This past week’s Ann Arbor city council meeting did not adjourn until nearly 2 a.m. Several factors contributed to the length of that meeting.
But instead of writing a few thousand words analyzing those factors, I’d like to point out something that was absolutely not a factor. The council did not lay claim to the public’s time by considering any resolutions last Monday that wished someone a happy birthday.
But that was the sort of thing the Ann Arbor city council of 43 years ago did.
I was alerted to this by Jim Mogensen, whose name some readers will recognize as a resident who will reliably appear to comment at various public meetings on topics like transportation and social justice. One of Mogensen’s favorite rhetorical tactics is to tie current events to decades-old actions and to remind people of some forgotten historical point.
Mogensen spoke at the Ann Arbor city council’s Nov. 18 meeting urging the approval of a resolution that added Ypsilanti Township as a member of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. He called it the continuation of a process that began over 40 years ago. And ultimately the council voted 11-0 in favor of adding Ypsilanti Township to the authority.
Three days later, at Thursday’s meeting of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority’s board, Mogensen’s remarks served to bridge that four-decade span – between the Jerry Lax of Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels P.C. who currently provides legal counsel for the AAATA, and the Jerry Lax who was Ann Arbor city attorney back in 1970.
Mogensen bridged those four decades by reading aloud a city council resolution from 1970 recognizing Lax’s birthday, which, as luck would have it, is today.
The full text of the tongue-in-cheek resolution is presented below. But it’s not just the hilarious text of the resolution that I thought was worth sharing with readers. It’s something else from that page of the council’s minutes that I thought was even more remarkable.
RESOLUTION OF CONGRATULATIONS OF THE OCCASSION [SIC] OF THE BIRTHDAY OF CITY ATTORNEY JEROLD LAX
WHEREAS, time’s steady trickly [sic] of sand ever continues; and
WHEREAS, those who were once young stay young no longer; and
WHEREAS, the youngest city attorney in recent memory is now approaching middle-age; and
WHEREAS, on the eve of his senility we all regard him with fondness and affection,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the City Council of the City of Ann Arbor hereby wishes city attorney Jerry Lax Happy Birthday on the 23rd day of November, 1970, being the occassion [sic] of the 29th anniversary of his birth.
Moved by Councilman Kazarinoff that the Resolution be adopted. On roll call the vote was as follows: Yeas, Councilmen Curry, Kirshet, Faber, Weaver, Kazarinoff, Edwards, Weber, Stephenson, Stadler, Fairbanks, Mayor Harris, 11
Chair declared the motion carried.
There being no further business to come before the council, chair declared the meeting adjourned at 8:40 p.m.
Harold R. Saunders,
The council adjourned its meeting at 8:40?!
I’ll grant you that our local governance has become more complex now than it was in 1970. And it might well be that the 8:40 p.m. adjournment on that occasion was a notable exception – as I have not conducted a systematic study of meeting adjournment times from that era. Still, I don’t think it’s controversial to suggest that a meeting like last Monday’s, which pushed toward 2 a.m., reflects a certain dysfunction.
But how late is too late? To be clear, I am not suggesting that the council try to regulate the duration of its meetings by developing a rule. But what is a reasonable goal and expectation to set for meeting length?
In the spirit of one of Mogensen’s favorite topics, I’d suggest this guideline:
People attending a city council meeting should be able to stay until the end and still catch the last fixed route public bus leaving downtown.
Allowing time to walk from city hall to the Blake Transit Center, that would currently mean the council meetings would need to wrap up around 10:15 p.m.
The AAATA’s 5-year improvement plan, which the authority will likely ask voters to support with an additional millage next year, includes extension of operating hours until later in the evening.
So if councilmembers want to hit that guideline, but still extend their meetings longer than 10:15 p.m., all they’d need to do is encourage voters to support the AAATA millage when it’s floated.
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