(Column previously published June 6, 2012)
Bob Johnson wants to lay down a few rules. And really, this is something he’s been asking to implement for many years.
The only difference is, now, he may have the council support to get it done.
Johnson, the District 4 representative on the Lee’s Summit City Council, is chairman of the newly formed Rules Committee – a group that includes council members Kathy Hofmann, Derek Holland and Allan Gray.
This group is charged with reviewing the various rules that govern meetings as laid out in the city charter and with discussing and, possibly, setting new guidelines for council comments, citizen comments and other areas of the council meetings.
This is, honestly, Johnson’s dream committee.
In the first few minutes, the chairman discussed his disdain for a lack of consistent rules during council meetings, voiced his opinion that citizens and council members should be able to engage in dialogue and even went as far as to say he believes the city is closing too many meetings.
Gray added that when some procedural questions come up, that the council sometimes lacks direction.
Much of the council/citizens comments discussion – although it has been a topic in Lee’s Summit for some time – stems from last year’s blow up as Johnson engaged in conversation about the Ted White lawsuit and settlement during that “comment” portion of the meeting.
Johnson later said he was censured, something other council members have denied. Still, when our council can and cannot connect with citizens who come before the dais should be specific and on paper.
The committee made known their feelings last week, something that may be a preview as to how future council votes will go.
Johnson, Holland and Gray all said this process should be about openness and people interacting with their local government. Holland said he doesn’t want anyone telling him he cannot interact with a citizen who has come before the council.
Each city does this process differently. Lee’s Summit has been fairly lenient on letting citizens address the council on a variety of topics. Other towns have a sign up process. Some allow for a dialogue, others do not.
Hofmann was the lone voice of dissention on the committee, saying she was not in favor of council responses to citizen comments during the meeting.
The committee spent some time debating Roberts Rules and other issues, which is, again, something that seems like it should be or should have been in place for a city this large.
Largely, things in Lee’s Summit have been well managed and well planned out. A quick glance at our city, our streets and our parks can confirm that.
With this rules committee, we need an expectation that decisions will be firm, be quick and be adhered to. We don’t need this committee stretching out for a long period of time. These kinds of systems and policies should effortless.