Ever since the “strong mayor” form of governance was adopted Mayor Sanders has been hard to find at city council meetings. It’s been even harder for the average citizen to get his attention.
On October 27th, Councilmember Donna Frye and Councilmember-elect Carl DeMaio held a public meeting at city hall to discuss their initiative to “improve the openness, effectiveness, and independence of the city council through reforms.”
One of the reforms: make the mayor a bit more accessible to the public by getting him out of that sprawling 11th floor office and into one of the four elevators and up one floor to at least one city-council meeting a month. For Frye and DeMaio, the mayor doesn’t have to stay for the length of the meeting. Instead, they’d just like him to be there for one hour to answer questions from the public and the city council.
Reform 1.5 of the draft provision was requesting a “monthly public comment and question session with the Mayor.”
“Under the Strong Mayor-Strong Council form of governance the mayor no longer chairs, nor regularly attends city council meetings. Therefore, some have argued that the public has limited access or opportunity to bring their issues directly before the mayor — as they did under the Manager-Council form of government.”
Frye’s and DeMaio’s recommendation: “Amend the permanent rules of the council to include a monthly sixty minute “Question and Comment” session with the mayor —ideally during the monthly evening meeting. Thirty minutes would be allocated to the public with thirty minutes allocated to the city council.”
Many in attendance at Frye’s and DeMaio’s meeting agreed.
“I like the monthly public comment and question-and-answer with the mayor. He’s become an invisible person to the average citizen, and we don’t have any opportunity, unless we’re on the in-list, to come and talk to him,” said resident Judith Swink.
The next speaker, Joy Sunyata, concurred. “I like our mayor and I miss seeing more of him and I miss him when he’s not there. When he does come, I think, wow, why isn’t he here more?”
Later, Frye went on to add that it isn’t too much to ask the mayor to show up 12 hours a year to have more interaction with his constituents.
Frye and DeMaio hope to finalize their list of reforms by November 10th in order to get it docketed for the first meeting of the new council on December 10th.
DeMaio urged current council president Scott Peters to give his support putting the item on the agenda. “It’s quite possible that the current council president could decide not to docket it as an agenda item for December 8th, which would mean that the new city council would start off under the old set of rules. I implore the council president to provide legislative courtesy to those incoming members. Allow them to decide how they would like to conduct business, a legislative courtesy. In a city that’s been divided, the public trust having been ripped, I think it’s the least those outgoing members can do is allow our city a fresh start.”
For more information on Frye’s and DeMaio’s efforts to get the mayor out of his office and into council chambers, go to cleanupcityhall.com.