Council workshops available online
Interested folks have one more tool to tune into the nuts and bolts of city government.
For the first time, Grand Junction City Council has allowed summaries to be posted of the conversations members share in workshops and readiness meetings.
Regular City Council meetings are televised and can be viewed online. Minutes of those meetings have long been posted on the city’s website for anyone to review.
Yet until this new City Council took the reins in May, there was no record of other meetings of the board. While those meetings, called workshops and readiness meetings, are not televised, they now are voice-recorded and summaries of those talks are available online.
“I’m glad that we’re taking this step. I think we need to be as transparent as possible,” said Phyllis Norris, a councilor who advocated for recording the meetings.
All meetings in which a majority of city councilors attend are open to the public.
However, some residents said they are stymied when councilors appear to reach a decision at regular City Council meetings without first discussing an issue.
Often the subjects of council meetings are discussed in previously held workshops and readiness meetings. Formal decisions are not allowed in those more informal meetings, but councilors generally direct staff to work in a certain direction.
“I had one person tell me they’re glad they’re getting the notes online,” Norris said of the new record-keeping.
Councilors have ushered in some other small changes to meetings.
Typically, workshops were conducted as a time when councilors were apprised on city issues and discussed solutions to problems. Members of the public can attend, but not give testimony.
But, for example, as councilors were talking about whether the city should help fund the Avalon Theatre during a workshop recently, some residents who were proponents of the plan were invited to speak.
Mayor Sam Susuras said he will continue to allow public input at workshops if a majority of four councilors approve of it. Or, as mayor, the councilor responsible for running the meetings, Susuras said he may allow members of the public to speak at workshops.
“Occasionally, I’ll make an executive decision,” he said.
The format for the public comment period for regular City Council meetings will be unchanged, Susuras said.
Citizens have five minutes to speak to councilors about any topic at the podium before and after council meetings. Councilors have a policy not to respond to comments. Sometimes, councilors will direct city staff to help a resident if serious issues arise.