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City Council opens the door to temptation Good people can make what they believe is a good decision, not realiz- ing that what seems prudent to them is a temptation for others. This happened recently when the Venice City Council voted to allow city workshops to be held on only two days' notice and without giving resi- dents the same public notice given for other city meetings.
Don't think that this issue doesn't concern you because of the terms "workshops" and "public notice. The city's elected leaders, who normally can only gather at public meetings that are advertised well in advance, can now meet on just two days' notice and with the only heads-up to residents being a link on the city website or a sheet of paper hanging on a wall in city hall.
The City Council members had good intentions when they gave approval to this change. They know that at workshops, is- sues can be discussed but, technically, no vote can be taken and no action can be authorized.
For example, if the City Council decides to discuss road improvements in a city workshop, the members cannot vote on what improvements to make and the city staff cannot begin negotiating contracts or moving forward in any way.
The current City Council reasons that if no official action can be taken, then having a meeting with only two days notice shouldn't be a problem for residents.
But the dirty little secret about "workshops" is that while no official vote can be taken, a consensus can be reached, and the city staff can begin moving forward based on the consen- sus. We've actually been at workshops at which an elected leader has said, "We can't vote but we know what the general consensus is.
But while that seems prudent, the door to temptation has been opened wide. Down the road, a less-than-scrupulous mayor or city manager could plan a workshop about an important issue during a holiday week or in the middle of the day meaning the Council can arrive at a consensus without the public being given reasonable notice.
If you need an example, think of a future City Council holding a workshop about a downtown parking garage. Think how they could have the meeting two days after Christmas and arrive at a consensus where to place the garage.
The city staff, based on that consensus, could start prepar- ing contracts and making phone calls, Then, a few weeks later, when the new year has arrived, the City Council can meet and officially vote on a matter they actually decided weeks prior. That wouldn't be right. But it is entirely possible.
We all know how quickly an elected body can be tempt- ed to the dark side of politics. So, you know what? Let's not tempt them. Let Venice be forced to give the public the same notice for city workshops as it does for City Council meetings. We know the effort can sometimes be a pain in terms of planning, but it's the right thing to do.
By the way, if a true emergency ever comes up, the city has the power to have an emergency meeting. Let's say a giant sinkhole opens up downtown or a bridge collapses. If something like that occurs, the City Council can meet nearly immediately after calling the press and making a few other phone calls.
But as you can guess, emergency meetings are an absolute rarity. We urge the City Council to treat workshops as they would any other City Council meeting and give the proper notice with the same early no- tice given for City Council meetings. Let's not leave open the door to temptation.The Englishman who was on friendly terms with his Norman lord or his Norman neighbour nay.
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