The Jorda nCity Council meeting on Aug. 3 ran about three hours and 20 minutes. It ended after 10 p.m., having started at 6:30 p.m. Two councilors were not there.

When I was on the city council, and even before, there was much discussion about how long the meetings were, and what was to be done to shorten them. One of the changes made was to eliminate a second public comment session at the end of the meeting.

Back then I did a little research and learned that the two public comment periods ran an average of seven to 11 minutes combined. The council, in it’s wisdom decided to eliminate one public comment period.

Meetings continued to run long, Most of the length came from councilors repeating themselves ad infinitum, and debating things during council comment. Often the things being debated had been decided earlier in the meeting. Sometimes councilors brought up things for discussion which would have been more appropriately handled as an agenda item. Those ambushes deprived (and still deprive) co-councilors of an opportunity to make a reasoned response, and opposed to just knee-jerking it.

Even back then, the councilors (well, some of them anyway) wanted to behave like unruly children, talking over each other, interrupting, holding side discussions, and generally ignoring Robert’s Rules, which were then the legally mandated form for conducting a council meeting in Jordan.

So here we are again, with the council having a meeting running over three hours, just like in 2011.

Robert’s Rules is gone. Audience participation is all but gone. The only ones to blame for long council meeting are the councilors themselves.

So here’s my suggestion. The mayor, as chair of the meeting has the power to instruct each councilor to take turns speaking, and to limit each turn to some set time (three minutes is what the council deems adequate for the unwashed masses). The chair has the power to tell the council no one will speak until each councilor has taken his or her turn, after which each councilor may take a second, time constrained turn if he or she wishes.

The mayor, as chair has the power to tell anyone (including MnDOT) their presentation may not exceed a predetermined length. I’d say 10 minutes is fair.

The mayor, as chair, also has the power to table agenda items if it looks like the agenda is too long, or contains especially time consuming items (like closed session legal issues).

And finally, the chair has the power to require that councilors not discuss during council comment any topic that has been on the agenda during the meeting. Rehashing what went on earlier in the meeting is just a waste of time.

The Quote: “Talk low. Talk slow. And don’t say too much.” -John Wayne

Thom Boncher is a retired marketing communications manager, former Jordan City Council member and Jordan resident since 2003.

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