Editorial: Council reports are no place for taking votes

Published 9:39 am Friday, November 15, 2013

The Albert Lea Council has improved in many ways over the years. It is more efficient with time. It is more orderly. It is more professional.

But we have observed one area that could be cleaned up. The City Council ought to avoid voting on anything not on the agenda.

Both appointments to the Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Advisory Board this past month came during reports at the end of the meeting. Reports by the councilors, mayor and city manager are times to give reports, not make appointments or pass resolutions.

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It makes it seem like the council is doing things on a whim. The reason for agendas is to give the public — the tax-paying voters — a written idea of what’s to come at the meeting.

In fact, we’ve been down this road before. At a council meeting in 2008, the council approved the red geranium as the city flower. It wasn’t on the agenda. No one outside of the flower supporters and city leaders knew there was a proposal for a city flower. Suddenly, during a report from one of the councilors about the flower idea, a motion was made, a vote taken, and, bam, Albert Lea had a city flower. No building community momentum. No public debate. No outside input. Done.

It sets a bad example to panels and boards that advise the City Council. Wasn’t it the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board that passed a resolution in September to move the skate park without much feedback from both sides?

At the very least, the City Council, at the start of the meeting, could follow parliamentary procedure by adding the appointments to the agenda. Or put them on the consent agenda, if nothing else, but always have action items — votes — on the agenda. It’s courteous to the public and looks professional to outsiders.

After all, there’s nothing to hide.