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D3: City Council Procedure -- Suggestions for City Council Powers & responsibilities

From: domainremoved <Lynne>
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2019 11:39:29 -0800

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Dear Council,

I realize that this document is far along in your review cycle. So, I completely understand not entertaining the below comments. However, for future updates, I hope they will be considered. As to the document, the prose is "wordy" because most of it is written using passive verb tense. Use of active verb voice would shorten the document while also improving its readability.

Purpose Section: Very broad and general. Instead, I suggest a list such as in the below example from the National League of Cities

  * Review and approve the annual budget;
  * Establish long- and short-term objectives and priorities;
  * Oversee performance of the local public employees;
  * Oversee effectiveness of programs;
  * Establish tax rates;
  * Enter into legal contracts;
  * Borrow funds;
  * Pass ordinances and resolutions;

I would also give more guidance in terms of how Council members may establish policies. Some guidance is needed, especially for new Council members. When does Staff propose a new policy to Council based on their research into innovative best practices? How may individual Council members get peers to discuss new policies? When an "interest group" proposes a new Policy, what happens next? What tools may Council use to establish policy, etc?

Appointment of City Council Subcommittees
I would clarify the purpose of an Ad Hoc subcommittee. The City also has two very important ad hoc subcommittees that stemmed from the June 11, 2019 Development Moratorium discussion. Their charter is very broad and the public has seen few tangible outcomes. The meetings are also private, not public. I think it would be useful to actually list all the ad hoc committees including their start date and their exact charter so there is more visibility into these, which would lead to enough information to think strategically about them.

Appointment of City Councilmembers to Outside Boards
I would add the stipulation that should an appointment Councilmember not be re-elected, that person will be expected to resign his/her appointment. That would then allow the current Council to appoint another currently serving elected official in that person's place. After all, the purpose is to have MP elected official presence on the outside boards.

City Council Relationship with Advisory Bodies (perhaps add "and individual commissioners")
I would add that individual Council members should not "lobby" commissioners before an important Council vote to ask the commissioners to write the full Council in support of a particular outcome. I'm talking about a concerted campaign designed to get lots of emails going to CCIN in support of a councilmember's pet project. This is a form of pressure as their is a power imbalance between a Council member and an individual commissioner. Thus, it's harder to say no.

Appointment of City Attorney
The same law firm has supplied the City Attorney since 1961 in a "family business" way. The job duties might modernized to include an explicit focus on protecting the public good. Item #4 needs more specifics and perhaps a process as to how the City Attorney informs Council and relevant Commissioners as to new laws. I'm thinking of SB1000 Environmental Justice, which wasn't broadly (if at all) brought to Staff, Council and the public's attention. This law will impact Menlo Park when we update two or more concurrent elements of our General Plan. SB1000 also pertains to the ConnectMenlo exercise as environmental justice laws were passed to right situations of environmental injustice. There are other laws that we may not be following, such as State law governing duties for municipal library boards.

I would also add explicit provisions to guard against possible conflicts of interests. City Attorneys who also have outside clients, and/or who work for firms with outside clients, especially need safeguards against conflicts of interest and/or influence of special interests. Adding expectations for this matter would be useful to have in the City Council manual. It would also be good to add the metrics and process for how the City Attorney's work is evaluated.

Mr. McClure's upcoming retirement is a suitable time for Council to consider this general matter and to implement changes.

Appointment of City Manager
I suggest adding the metrics and process for how the City Manager's work is evaluated. You might also consider updating the duties. The list is very broad, many topics are abstractly written, and some topics could be combined and presented in more modernized language.

Final Comments:

I would add a vision for our City and a goal of being a well-managed City. I also think that ur local government would work better for residents if our local government had more checks and balances. The Council and Advisory Committee Branch is weak compared with the power of the City Manager and Staff Organization.

I would add an overall ethics policy, not just one for the City Manager.

I would also add a brief section about any key quasi government organizations such as the local Chamber of Commerce and expectations as to their role in our overall local government.

Council's January Goal Setting Meeting would represent a timely opportunity to review our City's overall government. One possibility would be to apply for What Works Cities Certificatio<https://whatworkscities.bloomberg.org/certification/>n as a way to get help in a systematic review of our overall local government.

Lynne Bramlett

Received on Tue Nov 12 2019 - 11:31:32 PST

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