Rules Change Delayed, But Public Comment OK’d

The Ann Arbor city council has postponed a vote on changes to its internal rules until its Sept. 16 meeting. The council’s action came at its Sept. 3, 2013 meeting. However, as part of its decision to postpone the vote, the council indicated that it will in some sense enact one of the proposed rules changes in advance of a vote on all of them – by providing an opportunity for public comment at its Sept. 9 work session.

This revision to the set of council rules was first presented to the council on June 17, 2013. However, a vote was postponed at that meeting.

The revisions were prompted by a desire to allow for public commentary at council work sessions – to eliminate any question about whether councilmembers were engaged in deliberative interactions at those sessions. By allowing for public commentary at work sessions, the council would ensure compliance with Michigan’s Open Meetings Act. The council’s rules committee also recommended additional changes, including a shortening of the individual speaking turns for public comment as well as shortening of time for councilmembers. Those additional changes were included in the June 17 version of the rules.

After again postponing a vote at its July 1, 2013 meeting, the council used its following meeting, on July 15, 2013, to eliminate one of the proposed rule changes – the shortening of public speaking turns. But the council postponed further revisions and a vote until Sept. 3. The council’s rules committee – consisting of Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), and mayor John Hieftje – was supposed to meet before the Sept. 3 meeting to consolidate input from other councilmembers and perhaps present a clean slate of proposed revisions. However, in the interim, the rules committee did not meet.

Among the other changes that had been a part of the proposed revisions, but which were postponed until the Sept. 16 meeting, was the addition of a rule to disallow the use of mobile electronic communication devices at the council table. Another possible change would affect the council’s standard agenda template by moving nominations and appointments to boards and commissions to a slot earlier in the meeting, instead of near the end.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]