Friday, December 16, 2016

Fewer, Quicker Meetings Cut Civic Engagement

Message from City Clerk AJ Jalloh: Monday's meeting has been canceled

On Monday, the City Council meets to set the agenda for the annual reorganization in January.

Old-timers will recall the reorganization meeting as an important occasion, well-attended by citizens dressed in their best, many of whom came to the microphone to give their own "state of the city" speeches after that given by the mayor.

Among actions taken at the reorganization, the governing body sets a calendar for the year, approves numerous appointments to boards and commissions, names attorneys and judges and adopts its own rules of conduct.

Regarding the annual calendar, changes over the past decade resulted (in my opinion) in a drop-off of citizen participation except when very controversial items are up for a vote. When I first began reporting on the council, regular meetings took place on the first and third Mondays and agenda-fixing sessions were held on preceding Mondays.

In 2006, a switch to a Monday-Wednesday schedule caused a drop-off in attendance by the regulars, some of whom no doubt chose Wednesday night Bible study over council meetings. Further changes in 2008, after the annual calendar had been published, may have made it too hard to keep track of meeting dates.(See Plaintalker's 2009 commentary on calendar change here) 

Gradually the calendar got whittled down some months in 2016 to one combined agenda-fixing and regular meeting. Meetings are televised, but the home audience has no clue what the governing body is voting on when items are only identified by numbers or letters without any explanation or context. Example: "Everybody good with A? B? C?"

My hope for municipal government in 2017 is for greater civic engagement, fostered by both the administrative and legislative branches, with a special emphasis on getting more young people involved. And please, let no council member follow in the footsteps of one who missed six of the 12 voting meetings. Unless there was a very valid reason to be absent, that was just an insult to constituents and colleagues alike.


  1. With regard to televised meetings, last night was the first time I saw the December 5th one. I had been tuning in nightly only to see an Oklahoma City documentary that has been running for months. Not sure what that's about.

    1. With all they can show about Plainfield, why the O.C. documentary? Can someone explain?

  2. We need to all voice our civic duties and attend regular meetings when our tax dollars are being spent, we all must make sure they are going to the right projects for every resident to benefit from and not a few...