Friday, January 09, 2009

Middletown's Civility

Recently Councilor Von Villas proposed two resolution dealings with civility during Council Meetings. She had proposed this during her election & came up with a few basic rules. It mentioned courtesy & respect while laying the Chair with the responsibility for keeping order. These simple, basic rules applied both to the audience & Councilors.

Well, duh. Nothing exactly earthshattering here. It basically reinforced Roberts' Rules of Order while being more specificic, and placed the job of keeping order wherein in rightly lies- with the Chair. There were no penalities, other than requiring the Chair to take action. It was a much needed document, though, reminding all of the importance of the two-way street the direction of such meetings require. It's not only the privileges that come with running a meeting, it's the duties of keeping it within the realm of civility. You can't call people names, ignore audience remarks, attack members, etc. Well, you can, but you will eventually suffer the consequences of such behavior. While Chair may sound like an easy gig, the position is not an easy one to fill with little time for on-the-job learning. Umm, it may actually require your reading of the aforementioned "Robert's."

The two resolutions (one concerning the audience & another the Council) did pass. Ah, now, you weren't thinking that it was unanimous, were you? Councilor Silveira was not present and I'm unsure of Council Sylvia who is presently in China. Cambra, Semonelli, VonVillas were yea's. The two no's were Councilors Santos and Bozyan. Something to do with the Constitution. You've got me. Heck, rules regarding behavior are everywhere with nary a mention of the Constitution, let alone the Bill of Rights. The thought that these rather innocuous documents may not have passed are somewhat unfathomable. Barbara, you naughty girl, you.

While I have not made it to most recent meetings, it has been noted by others that the new Town Solicitor, Mike Miller, is in attendance with his Roberts' Rules of Orders (a first!), uses it and knows what it says- another "duh" moment. This is to be noted as previously the Chairs' rarely made use of a Parliamentarian which often resulted in free-for-all's, also known as the good-old days. While entertaining to watch (!!), it really wasn't very effective for building a concensus, not to mention (and I will) effectively isolating certain members (think Councilor Silveira).

Legal eagle Miller's efforts have been put to good use- most notably in clarifying that the Constitution usually isn't referred to in town resolutions (I would imagine that it's implied) and how to handle a motion to "table" Councilor Mello's wandering topic of publicly documenting meeting attendance (?unclear ) brought up during the recent meeting's end-not on the agenda. A "table" motion enda all discussion & calls for an immediate vote. Another "duh" moment for an inappropriate topic discussion. It seems as if you really have to pre-announce (prior to a meeting) a new topic (not to mention a resolution which she seemed to be calling for). And, darn!, it has to be in writing & announced in the agenda. Wow, parliamentary rules and open meeting rules, those darn pesky little things, actually being followed. Go figure!

It is also noted that Councilor Mello is a liason for a town committee which never posts agenda or minutes (an open meeting loophole which the town could/should close). What is also notable here is that it seems that the previous bloc voting may be dead which is likely shocking to a few (well- me). And I pray that it will remain so. Coming to meetings with your vote already indicated on your agenda (yes, it was done) may actually require thinking, listening, and speaking. Are you prepared for this?
Another note slightly off-topic. In Newport there has been lively discussion in the paper & the Council regarding the naming of various town legal offices which are appointed by Council. They actually want discussion, interviews, and are soliticing those interested in applying. In Middletown it was done quietly in exec session with none of this. Why not? These are all well-paid jobs that involved decisions that we all must live with (think Council, courts, rulings, etc). I am specifically thinking now of the "Bay Ridge" condos on Forest Ave. Evidently the town ordinance developed regarding senior developments ignored state & fed'l law. Hello, this was a legal shortcoming directly attributable to our Council legal appointees. We're gonna pay for this one, I think.
I need some new nicknames. Suggestions? I need someone else who is willing to attend meetings & keep notes when I can't be there (I do have a life). How about someone for School meetings? Write under an alias if you like. Since no one ever volunteers, I may have to impose a draft.

I still haven't forgotten the Kempen lawsuit. Quiet, quiet, until it's not. Let's see how many campaign promises are kept here.
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