Council Packets contain more than the agenda for the City Council meeting. They contain a wealth of information you are likely to find useful. Knowing where to look provides powerful insights into your City's inner workings.
Below is a brief description of what each section contains. The strategy section below will show how you can integrate this information into your presentations.
Public Comment is part of the Council agenda. It is where members of the Community can share their thoughts directly to the City Council. This generally occurs early in the meeting.
Correspondence for the Record are the emails to the City Council. These communications are always part of the Public Record.
Consent Agenda are the topics that the Council will be voting on that evening.
Business Agenda are the items that the Council is debating. When there is support to have the item voted on, it is placed in the Consent Agenda for a future meeting.
City Manager's Report is part of the Business Agenda. It has information that the Council has requested as well as information that the City Manager believes pertinent to the Council. This report generally comes towards the end of the evening.
Public Comment will present a different dimension to what is happening in your City. People who are willing to speak at the Podium are frequently passionate about their ideas. I always paid close attention to their presentations. A good portion of the information I used in my campaign originated in the Public Comment. Past presentations can be seen in the archives of your City's website.
Correspondence for the Record is an invaluable resource. It can help you identify problems going on in your City. They also contain the email address of the sender. This will allow you to contact the sender directly to get a better understanding of the issue they are writing about.
I would invite you to download the April 15, 2013 Council Packet here to get a sense of the scope of information available. These insights are quite helpful when you are building consensus. Your issue will only gain so much traction on its own. However, if you show that the other issues confronting your City have a common denominator: the City Manager, tremendous pressure can be brought to bear to get things resolved quickly.
Below are the page numbers for three examples of information I will be using in my presentations:
- Page 3. Quarterly Financial Reports
- Page 23. Wards
- Page 29. City Manager Evaluation and Public Records Requests
Sending letters to the Council is a good way of communicating to the Council and the Community. I used letters to the Council as a change up strategy for my presentations that were more detail oriented. I didn't have to worry about the 3 minute limit at the Podium. I believe you will find it to your advantage to not speak at every Council meeting. I did not want my audience to become desensitized to the issues I was raising.
Consent Agenda contains the minutes from the previous meeting as well items that the Council will be voting on.
The minutes contain:
- Names and addresses of the people who spoke in the Public Comment at the previous Council meeting. Using this information with the City Video of the meeting can be quite helpful. These individuals can be a good resource for information. They may even be willing to join you in speaking for change.
- The voting record for the Consent Agenda from the previous meeting. I found using this information in conjunction with the videos of the meetings to be quite informative. It allowed me to see where each of the Council Members stood on various issues confronting the City.
A Consent Agenda item located on page 57 (Updated Guidelines for City Council Meetings) will give you insights into understanding City Council Meetings. It is well written and easy to understand. It also reaffirms the State Law Statues I will be discussing throughout my campaign.
Business Agenda is where the Council discusses the direction and policies of the City. This is where Ordinances are originated and worked out. There generally is a back and forth between the Council and the Staff over wording and intent. Your City's website Video will allow you to get a more nuanced sense of what is going on. I used this to get a better understanding of Ordinance 561 – the Code that requires Banks to maintain their foreclosed properties.
City Manager's Report is an important document. It may contain a response to issues you are raising. If the information in it is not complete or its inaccurate; you can take the initiative at the Public Comment at the beginning of the meeting to request more information. This is how I engaged the City Manager on April 15, 2013.