How much time should city councils put between heated debates? First-term Councilor Virginia Ridley has some suggestions. Plus, on the podcast we discuss bullying, meeting schedules, and affairs.
Q: I want to go to October 27, 2015. Not to get too specific with the listeners, but there was a report from the city administration about arts funding that the council asked for earlier that year. And Councilors Jesse Helmer and Mohamed Salih did not feel city staff had given you what you requested. So they made a motion to refer the report back to the administration. How often does council vote on something in a meeting and then people don’t follow it?
A: At the beginning of our term, I think it happened more frequently than it should. We had a relatively new council. We had a number of bumps in the road and maybe council’s direction was misunderstood.
Q: So after a bit of debate here, you stood up and offered a motion to reconsider. The council voted on the Helmer-Salih motion, which was defeated, so they moved on to your reconsideration motion. However, the mayor suddenly told you that you were ineligible to make that motion because you were absent from the original meeting. How were you feeling at that moment?
A: Oh, I was angry. We had already established that if we vote no to the motion on the floor, we could do reconsideration right next. You see there was no pause. Within three seconds, it’s, “oh, no, you actually can’t make that motion.” It certainly angered me quite a bit.
Q: Right, one vote can certainly affect a subsequent vote in council. And it did seem a bit suspect that the mayor did not have this information on the screen before he, I guess, clicked “end” on the voting and announced the result. But I’m sure he did the best he could…except for the fact that you learned MINUTES AFTER that vote that you ACTUALLY WERE in attendance and could make the motion! Did you have a realization of, “oh, god. If that was incorrect, what else in our records is inaccurate?”
A: I knew all along I was correct. It was one of those, in the moment, not having the proof at my fingertips. I would agree with you. What other errors could potentially happen here?
Q: At this point, the city manager stands up. He responds to the initial complaint that this report is not what the council ordered by stridently defending the staff. How justified was his pushback?
A: I don’t know if I could say that absolutely he was in the right. That statement probably escalated things more than they needed to. The way our council works is the night before, we would’ve had a committee meeting. That would’ve been Monday night. On Tuesday night, council would confirm and re-debate all of the committees that had happened. We were having the same debates the second time.
Q: I mean, doesn’t that open itself up to the situation we just witnessed? That if you didn’t win the argument on your first night, you get to re-litigate the argument on the second night?
A: The fact that we do it one day apart, people haven’t had the opportunity to reflect. If we’re there until midnight on Monday and we’re back 16 hours later, people haven’t had time to walk away from the situation, think about it, talk to their constituents.
Follow Councilor Virginia Ridley on Twitter: @virginia_ridley