After repeated debates over council rules in the last 10 months, the North Bend City Council agreed to an updated set of rules that will govern the way the council runs meetings and operates in other aspects of the job.
The updated rules were created with the help of the League of Oregon Cities and were discussed during a work session last week.
“The goal was to come up with best practices, so it was a thorough review of the rules,” City Administrator David Milliron explained.
Mayor Jessica Engelke and Council President Bill Richardson worked with Patty Mulvhill with the League of Oregon Cities to update the rules. Mulvhill said she used what she heard from the council while also looking at what around a dozen other cities do to come up with the council rules she presented.
“What I tried to do in building this was not only to look at comparable cities but was to include some best practices and really work off some of the comments you guys gave me when I visited your city,” Mulvhill said.
Some of the changes in the rules include time limits for council meeting, limiting the time to three and a half hours, with council members having the authority to extend the time in one-hour increments with a majority vote.
The rules also change the format for considering issues on the agenda. Each item will begin with a motion and a second. If they get both, discussion on the items can begin. Without a motion and a second, the item will fail, and the council will move on. If changes are agreed to during the discussion, a revised motion can be made.
During the discussion, council members raised several questions and the council agreed to make some changes to the way the new rules were written.
Councilor Timm Slater questioned why the rules set a time limit for regular council meetings but had not limit for council work session. He suggested setting a two-hour time limit for work sessions, with the option to go longer with a council vote. Slater said if the council business was not completed in two hours, another special meeting or work session could always be called.
“I’ve heard that concern from more than one council member,” Milliron said. “You’re starting to see some concerted efforts of staff to keep meetings under two hours. We’re trying to be reflective of the will of the council.”
“I don’t mind that at all if we do the two-hour things, and if we need more time, we vote on it,” Councilor Larry Garboden said.
Councilor Susanna Noordhoff also brought up a couple of points.
“I think it’s a good improvement,” Noordhoff said. “I think it clears up some grey areas, and that’s very helpful.”
Noordhoff questioned why action items such as resolutions and ordinances require four council members to request for it to be put on an agenda while other items only require three council members.
Mulvhill said those items tend to require more staff time as well as time of the city attorney, so generally cities try to avoid putting them on agenda without a consensus of the majority of the council.
“I think with more time seeing this and how they’ll evolve, I’ll have a better understanding,” Noordhoff said.
She also raised how public comments are listed in the minutes, saying a little detail should be included.
“I believe the minutes should include the substance of public comment,” Noordhoff said. “You don’t just say, so and so called in. You say so and so commented on this topic on this point.”
Mulvhill said most cities she works with include very limited information in minutes on public comment.
“I do not see most cities giving the substance on public comments,” she said. “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but it’s atypical.”
Noordhoff said she wasn’t asking for much detail, just the name of the person, topic and one line about the view they expressed. The council members all agreed.
The final change the council approved do was an item that describes how council members can dissent if they object to a vote. The rules presented said the council members had two business days to submit a dissent that would be added to the minutes. Noordhoff asked for more time, and the council agreed to four business days.
“Somebody put a lot of effort in this, and I appreciate it,” Councilor Pat Goll said. “It’s pretty cut and dry to guide us.”
Due to the changes, Mulvhill said she would rework the rules, which could come back to the council for formal approval at their second meeting in September.