Tired of six-hour council meetings? A committee meeting on Tuesday afternoon offered a first look at the possibility of a more efficient Metro Council this term.
Critics of the council have groused in recent years about meetings that extend well past midnight, making it harder for the public to monitor and understand what’s happening to legislation. While campaigning against incumbent Jim Shulman, Vice Mayor Angie Henderson made it clear that a more efficient Metro Council would be a top priority. Henderson’s approach to how to achieve that efficiency became more apparent during a meeting of the Metro Council Executive Committee Tuesday afternoon.
“So a little bit of my expectation is around kind of narrating the work and contextualizing it a little bit,” Henderson told the eight council members in attendance. “You don’t have to go all the way down the rabbit hole and way back. But that’s helpful for the public. And that is helpful for new members.”
The executive committee is comprised of the chairs of each council committee, and Henderson made it clear to those council members that she expects them to foster greater discussion surrounding legislation in committees to prevent deferrals once a piece of legislation has reached the council floor. She reasons that by the time a piece of legislation hits the council floor, council members should be adequately informed on what that legislation is to avoid hours-long discussions leading to a deferral.
This situation has already taken place once, in the first week of the term. A resolution to accept a grant from the state to fund school resource officers in schools was pulled off the consent agenda, leading to more than 40 minutes of debate, only for it to be deferred to the following meeting once councilmembers realized they did not know all of the details surrounding the grant. After going back to the Public Health and Safety committee before the next meeting, the resolution ultimately passed, but only after taking up close to two hours over two council meetings.
Mayor Freddie O’Connell said he wasn’t worried about the deferrals yet.
“There is an inquisitiveness and I think they will, over time probably like we did, start to use the committee process as effectively as possible,” O’Connell told reporters during a media roundtable on Friday. He said that the curiosity of this council reminded him of his first term representing District 19 in 2015 and that he did not yet feel it was a cause for concern.
Henderson also killed two committees.
The executive committee approved Henderson’s proposal for a new committee structure that reduces the number of Metro Council committees. Notably, the affordable housing and education committees have been discontinued, which Henderson says will eliminate redundancies while allowing the council to continue to be a part of those conversations.
“We have formalized the division of affordable housing under the umbrella of the planning department,” said Henderson. “And thus, I think there is a logic then, with [Angie] Hubbard’s group being under the planning department umbrella, that we’re basically pulling affordable housing under that umbrella. That does not mean this council does not care about affordable housing. It just is putting that in a place where there’s a good strategic alignment.”
She also explained that the education committee had virtually no legislation going through it outside of charter school lease agreements, which she said could be dealt with in the Budget and Finance Committee.
Additionally, the executive committee opted to cancel the first meeting of January, coming back in the third week of the month to have the first meeting of the year. The public hearing portion of the meeting that typically happens during the first meeting of the month will now fall on that meeting. This change will apply to the rest of this council’s term.