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home : opinions : opinions April 17, 2015

3/21/2013 10:14:00 PM
Editorial: Regulations hamper caucus meeting idea
The Daily Courier

The Prescott City Council is working to be open, efficient, transparent and informal; yet, they also want to and must comply with the law.

The questions come when its members host "caucus" meetings, which began in February.

They are council meetings, but not as formal. They are brainstorming sessions, but not true workshops. Members do not sit at the dais, but around a table. At the same time, the city attorney said, the meetings will have to follow an agenda and be posted.

Confused yet?

In theory, the idea of a council caucus is growing legs. Councilmen Chris Kuknyo and Charlie Arnold said this week that the caucuses are useful because they allow council members to suggest issues for the agenda, and then "brainstorm" on them without the formal constraints of voting meetings. Also, they are aimed at allowing council members to bring up and discuss issues in a roundtable-type format.

Still, they cannot put on the caucus agenda "downtown issues," but instead will have to be more specific - such as parking or vagrancy/panhandling, which occur downtown.

And, right now, the meetings are not taped or broadcast on television like is done with the regular council meetings.

At this week's council meeting, if the caucuses continue, members agreed Channel 13 public access should televise them. Mayor Marlin Kuykendall said, "Our goal is to inform the public. Are we shorting the public (with the caucus meetings)?"

Council members also said having meetings without formalities - including roll-call votes - is beneficial, but because of agenda and other Arizona Open Meeting Law requirements, the usefulness of the caucus meetings is in question.

"Unless you agendize it, you can't talk about it," Councilman Jim Lamerson said. "So why are we doing the caucuses?"

Beneficial? Yes. The alternative is smaller groups of council members talking outside of the public's view.

Useful? Not so much, when you consider that true "brainstorming" is hamstrung by the agenda requirements.

Nice try, but the idea's legs are cramping.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2013
Article comment by: open meeting law .

It�s just another meeting. I don't see any harm if it has an agenda and is posted.

I agree with Bad seed and the need for some of the council to consider more than their preconceived dogma to which they cling. However, there are ways to meet with them and most are fairly closed minded (probably just like you) but they will still respectfully meet with you - so you do have a chance to put forth your arguments. Despite what some want to think, they are not hiding. You can always vote for a change too.

Also, the open meeting law does not guarantee the public a right to comment or participate at the meeting. It just says that public business must be carried out in public view - you can watch, record, etc. Nowhere does it say that the public must be allowed to comment or participate at an open meeting law meeting. They allow public comment as a matter of courtesy and good politics, not because they are compelled to do so by the open meeting law.

Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2013
Article comment by: Open and Transparent?

Mayor Marlin Kuykendall said, "Our goal is to inform the public. Are we shorting the public (with the caucus meetings)?"

Come on Mayor, if that is your goal, why have you and council not informed the public you views on the issue of corruptness within the PD and addressed the Iron Brotherhood issue?

"The Prescott City Council is working to be open, efficient, transparent and informal".

Sounds like a lot of BS, lip service and issue dodging. When are you all going to step up to the plate and address the LE issue?

The voters/public are waiting for your responses regarding the problem and we will not allow it to be swept under the rug, so deal with it it is not going to go away until the public gets action and answers.

Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2013
Article comment by: Bad Seed

If you are only looking for conservative solutions, you will have limited subset of tools and small possibilities of success. I suppose that public involvement risk the possibility of considering other ideas that might draw out a Councilperson from the safety of repeating conservative rhetoric and pretending substance.

Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2013
Article comment by: Attentive Listener

Bottom line, they want a way out of the open meeting laws, but oh- they say it is for the public's benefit. Obviously the only thing stopping politicians from being open and transparent are the rules requiring them to include the public, right? Sorry fellas- this one's not buying it.

Posted: Saturday, March 23, 2013
Article comment by: Jeff Ahrens

Years ago, I was with my Dad talking about his neat new rifle and his love of the National Rifle Association. Long lost dreams . . . .

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013
Article comment by: @ David Kerr

no offense intended, but that was the most far-flung pile of conjecture that i've read in a while.

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

TO: Steven Ayres

Yeah! Good thinking.

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013
Article comment by: Steven Ayres

The sort of "brainstorming" that I witnessed in the first of these meetings was no different from what has gone on in regular (non-voting) study sessions, with the exception that the public was not allowed to comment or participate. As I did, everyone I spoke with afterward wondered what was the point. I would suggest that Council members looking for some positive brainstorming time consider meeting with constituents for that purpose, rather than each other.

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

There is a real problem here. Thirty years as an aerospace engineer taught me the value of unscripted brainstorming sessions where any idea and any topic could be discussed. At the same time, these were seldom used to make decisions, just to explore ideas.

Seems to me that the key is "no decisions, no votes, and presented on local TV." I suggest that it would be valuable to change the law to allow this.

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013
Article comment by: An Observer

The Arizona Open Meeting statutes are designed to protect the public. If you can discuss something that is not agenized, then where happens to the ability of the public to participate? For example, maybe a council member decides paying for legal notices in an Arizona publication is a waste of taxpayer funds and the discussion is about posting those legal notices on the city website. How does that shoe feed editor?

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013
Article comment by: David Kerr

Arizona is a swing state, California a one party state. In California, the coalition of interests decides everything behind closed doors. Lobbyists (who often write laws) and consultants convey the decisions to legislators, county supervisors and city councilors. When did you ever hear of the SEIU, prison guards union, teachers union or trial lawyers openly disagree on an issue?

Legislative hearings, supervisor's and city council meetings are where the decisions are promulgated and ratified.

Newspapers should be a check on special interests. The Bell, California whistleblower had to take the story to several media outlets before the LA Times was forced to cover the story. Faced with declining circulation, they tend not to cover stories which might cost them state and local government employees and retirees who are some of the most loyal subscribers.

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013
Article comment by: Openness? Transparency? Brainstorming? Sharing with the public?

This mayor and council? Surely you jest. With the possible exception of Kuknyo and the unashamedly ambitious Charlie Arnold the use of these words in connection with these boys (note no women on the council) is the essence of oxymoronship!

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