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Pro Democracy Project

The Berkeley City Council has been structured against the public/people having a voice in policy-making. At present, in the four areas listed below, City Council gives procedure priority over people.

This is a form of silencing.

We propose that people be given priority over procedure. Below are suggestions for restructuring City Council meetings.

1- Allow the public to control the order of the Action Agenda:

The problem: In general, items concerning the well-being of the people, or impositions on neighborhoods by business or corporate interests, are left for late in the session while business or administrative issues are considered first. This results in many people who are concerned about an issue eventually going home. Often those that wait until after 11 pm find the item postponed to the next meeting. This tactic discourages public input - a way of silencing the people.

The solution: A poll of the public during the ceremonial and the consent agenda can be used to determine the action calendar agenda order so that items with the highest public interest go first.

2- Give back to the people the ability to move items off the Consent Calendar

The problem: The Consent Calendar contains items about which there is general agreement among Council members. But if people wish to have those issues discussed, they need to have the ability to place them on the Action calendar. In the past, they had that ability. Council amended its own rules to disallow non-councilmembers from remove items from Consent.

The Solution: Rescind the resolution that removed the people’s ability to intervene in the Consent Calendar, and regain at least that minimal amount of influence over the agenda.

3- Don’t reduce the allocated time to speakers when public participation increases

The Problem: When a large number of speakers are present, the time allocated to an individual speaker is reduced from 2 minutes to 1 minute. These are the issues that the public cares the most about. One minute is not enough to present a coherent and cohesive argument on a complex question. It is a way of silencing the people.

The Solution: When more than 10 people show up, increase the time per individual to 3 minutes, with a maximum of 6 minutes per speaker.

4- Change the procedure for Action Item discussion to create a Public-Council dialogue

The Problem: For each Council agenda item, public comment comes first, and then council discusses the item and its issues. That means that the public speaks into a vacuum, addressing the issue from perspectives that are necessarily disengaged from councilmembers.

The Solution: Reverse the order of speaking with all Council members first addressing the item and providing their perspective. Then open the meeting to Public Comment, allowing the public to respond to the Council’s thinking, offering suggestions to augment that thinking or to address misinterpretations. The Council would then debate that input a second time before a vote. Thus, a form of dialogue between councilmembers and the people could occur.

For More information, contact us:

Pro Democracy Project

PO Box 11842 Berkeley, CA 94712



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