Council could shorten debates - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

Council could shorten debates

Some think move targets one member unfairly

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Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 11:00 pm

The days of prolonged discussion and deliberation in Oro Valley’s lawmaking process could soon come to a close.

Councilman K.C. Carter proposed an item for the March 25 council meeting that, if adopted, would impose time limits on council debates.

“It’s a way to handle items on the agenda in an expedient manner,” Carter said.

The proposed change would amend the council’s parliamentary rules and procedures to limit debates to five minutes per item for each member.

There currently are no time limits on debate, though certain parliamentary rules can minimize extensive orations by members.

As the head of the council, the mayor also can use his power to speed meetings along when the debate becomes redundant.

“I do that to a certain degree,” Mayor Paul Loomis said.

Still, the mayor said he understands that members want to feel comfortable with their votes and often want the public to understand their rationales.

For that reason, Loomis said he allows members to speak at length sometimes.

Other council members, however, said the justifications often drag on and resemble soap-box campaigning rather than earnest discussion.

“To me, it’s like grandstanding,” Councilman Al Kunisch said.

Kunisch agreed to Carter’s request to have the item placed on next week’s agenda.

Although he said he doesn’t know if he’ll vote for the change, Kunisch said he supports speeding the meetings along.

“To me, it’s a way to conduct business in a professional way.”

Some observers, though, think the move unfairly targets one council member.

“I think there is a general annoyance with Paula Abbott in particular,” Oro Valley resident Bill Adler said. “I think it is directed at Paula.”

Few town meetings transpire without Adler in the audience. He also serves on the town’s planning and zoning commission.

He said the perceived frustration with Abbott stems from her tendency toward lengthy justifications of dissenting votes and a perception that she comes to meetings unprepared.

Adler, however, said fellow council members should have taken care of any problems they have with Abbott privately and not in a public meeting.

“The appeal ought to be that you prepare for commentary,” Adler said. “This has no place on an agenda.” 

Abbott did not return phone calls requesting comment on the issue.

Loomis did not name any council member specifically, but acknowledged that the move appears targeted.

“At this particular time, is this focused on one member, yes,” Loomis said.

Carter denied that the rule change singles out any one member. “It’s an improvement on the process,” Carter said of the proposed change.

He added that five minutes should give members ample time to make themselves clear.

Debate on an item could be extended if a council member requests and a majority approves.

If the council adopts the changes, a logistical challenge would need solving.

Who keeps track of the time and how it’s counted have not been determined.

The council meets March 25, at 6 p.m. in council chambers, 11000 N. La Cañada Drive.

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