The devil is in the details when it comes to openness and transparency, and the new "procedures" to govern Davidson Town Hall up for consideration at Tuesday's Board meeting show that things may be looking up.
One of the items that has regularly concerned citizens over the years is "who controls the agenda". In the past, for Board meetings that has been the Mayor and the Town Manager - an interesting combination since neither of those positions has a vote when it comes to actually deciding things. Below is the language on agendas from the old Rules of Procedure.
Old Agenda Language:
The Mayor and the Town Manager shall prepare the agenda for each meeting. Commissioners or other
citizens may ask to have an item placed on the agenda as long as it is received at least five working days before the meeting. If the Mayor and Manager agree, the item shall be added to the agenda.
While citizens and Commissioners could ask for items to be on the agenda, there was no guarantee these requests would be honored. A request the Mayor or Manager didn't like would not even necessarily see the light of day as far as the public was concerned.
aShortChronicle noticed something new regarding this area in the new Rules of Prodedure up for a vote at Tuesday's Board meeting. See the full new agenda language below.
New Agenda Language:
(a) Draft Agenda.
(1) Preparation. The Town Manager shall prepare a draft agenda in advance of each meeting of the
(2) Requesting placement of items on draft agenda. For a regular meeting, a request to have an item of
business placed on the draft agenda must be received by the Town Manager at least four working days before the date of the meeting. The Town Manager must place an item on the draft agenda in response to a board member’s timely request.
(3) Supplemental information/materials. If the board is expected to consider a proposed ordinance or
ordinance amendment, a copy of the proposed ordinance or amendment shall be attached to the draft
agenda. An agenda package shall be prepared that includes, for each item of business listed on the
draft agenda, as much background information on the topic as is available and feasible to provide.
(4) Delivery to board members. Each board member shall receive a hard or electronic copy of the draft
agenda and the agenda package. Except in the case of an emergency meeting, the agenda and agenda
package shall be furnished to each member at least twenty-four hours before the meeting.
(5) Public inspection. The draft agenda and agenda package shall be available to the public when the
documents are ready to be, or have been, circulated.
(b) Adoption of the Agenda.
(1) Adoption. As its first order of business at each meeting, the board shall review the draft agenda,
make whatever revisions it deems appropriate, and adopt a formal agenda for the meeting.
(2) Amending the agenda. Both before and after it adopts the agenda, the board may add or subtract
agenda items by majority vote of the members present and voting, except that the board may not add
to the items stated in the notice of a special meeting unless the requirements in Rule 10(d) are
satisfied and only business connected with the emergency may be considered at an emergency
(3) Designation of items “For Discussion and Possible Action.” The board may designate an agenda
item “for discussion and possible action.” The designation signifies that the board intends to discuss
the item and may, if it so chooses, take action on the item following the discussion.
Take note of the two bolded lines in the new language.
Under this proposed language it only takes one Commissioner to request an agenda item be added and that item must be added to the draft agenda. While citizens appear to no longer be able to request agenda items directly as they could under the old rules, if just one Commissioner agrees with a citizen request, then that item can/must be added to the draft agenda. Furthermore, once added, removing an agenda item requires a public vote of the Board at the meeting.
This may seem like a small thing to readers, but it could be a radical departure from the more closed manner in how things were done in the past. aShortChronicle made a similar recommendation in this piece, but the proppsed Rules go even further in this regard. That's a good thing.
These small things can add up to make big differences. Here's to seeing that continue.
Update: aShortChronicle missed something in the first pass. Citizens can ask for agenda items to be added. However, there is no obligation to put them on it.
If a member of the public wishes to request that the board include an item on its regular meeting agenda,
he or she must submit the request to the Town Manager at least six working days before the date of the meeting. The board is not obligated to place an item on the agenda merely because such a request has been received.