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Changing City Council procedures

Changing City Council procedures

Changing City Council procedures

May 6, 2012 - Alice Crozier - People for Open Government - Hobokenreporter

Dear Editor:

(The following is a letter to Council President Ravi Bhalla and Mayor Dawn Zimmer)

The Board of Directors of People for Open Government (POG) invited you, and any council colleagues you chose, to meet with us in a public forum to discuss problems with the way the City Council conducts its business. In reply, you have said that, instead of such a meeting, POG should send you a list of remedies to the problems we have identified. POG expects the City Council and city administration to be willing to meet with citizen groups on public issues. Such meetings would foster the accountable and transparent government to which POG is dedicated. Inasmuch as you are unwilling or unavailable to meet with us, this letter will inform you of our thinking.

POG’s main concern is with the difficulty for the public of obtaining information about Council agenda items in a timely way.

1. The practice of allowing late items to be added to the agenda means that often the public, as well as council members themselves, can not read the material in time to prepare a careful response.

2. The absence of complete supporting documentation for agenda items on the city website has the same effect as the above; the lack of information about resolutions and ordinances that are to be acted upon at the meeting effectively denies the public the opportunity for informed commentary.

3. Judging from comments by council members at council meetings, the council committees do not meet in a regular way. Again, the result is a lack of information.

4. Resolutions to be acted on that night will be brought to the council meeting and handed around to members, rather than passed through the agenda and/or committee process. These appear at the last minute without affording either council or public a chance for informed comment.

As for POG’s remedy, we ask that, at a minimum, the council follow its own rules as set forth in the Resolution Adopting New Rules of Procedures for the City Council of the City of Hoboken, adopted by the City Council Feb. 18, 2009.

Article IV provides that all reports, communications, resolutions, ordinances, contract documents, or other matters to be submitted to the council, shall be delivered to the City Clerk by 4 p.m. on the Thursday preceding each regular Wednesday council meeting. Further, the City Clerk shall make the agenda available to the public as well as council members and city officials no later than 4 p.m. on the Friday prior to the Wednesday meeting. Exceptions shall be items of an urgent nature, and…shall have the written approval of the mayor before presentation to the council. The council should adhere to these procedures and deadlines in order for the public to be properly informed in a timely way about council business.

We use the expression “at a minimum” above because we think there were other steps the council could take in addressing these issues. You have said that the council recognizes that there are difficulties with its present operations and that it is considering changes to its procedures. We look forward to learning about your proposals.

Regards,
Alice Crozier,
President, for the POG Board 


Resource Box

MEETING OF FEBRUARY 18, 2009
MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF HOBOKEN, NEW
JERSEY, HELD IN THE COUNCIL CHAMBERS, CITY HALL, HOBOKEN, NEW
JERSEY, WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2009 AT 7:00 PM

Resolution 09-437
---By Councilwoman Castellano


RESOLUTION ADOPTING NEW RULES OF PROCEDURE FOR THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF HOBOKEN (AS AMENDED)

WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Hoboken is granted the exclusive authority to adopt rules of procedure for its own internal governance, pursuant to the Faulkner Act, N.J.S.A. 40:69A-36(f); and,

WHEREAS, the City Council has not re-adopted its rules of procedure in many years, and these rules of procedure need to be revised and updated to meet the Council's needs; and,

WHEREAS, the City Council wishes to adopt the following rules of procedure for its internal governance,
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF HOBOKEN, that the following rules of procedure are hereby adopted for the government of this City Council and the prior rules of procedure repealed.

RULE I
Regular Meetings: The Council shall hold regular meetings in accordance with an annual schedule to be adopted at the Council's re-organizational meeting. Generally, meetings shall be held on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 7:00 P.M., subject to summer schedules, holidays, and conflicting City events. Council meetings shall --ordinarily be held-in the Council-Chambers of Hoboken City Hall, except that the Council President or a majority of Council members may, in writing, call a meeting to be held in any other suitable public place within the City of Hoboken that is accessible to the public.  The provisions of the Open Public Meetings Act shall govern the procedures and conduct of all regular meetings. Robert's Rules of Order shall be followed at regular meetings to the extent that they do not conflict with these Rules of Procedure. The Council may also establish that it will hold regular caucus or workshop sessions, provided, however, that any such sessions comply with the Open Public Meetings Act.

RULE II
Special Meetings: The Mayor may call a special meeting of the Council. In the call the Mayor shall designate the purpose of the special meeting, and no other business may be considered.  A special meeting may be held in any suitable place within the City of Hoboken that is accessible to the public. Upon the written request of a majority of Council members, a special meeting may be called in accordance with the requirements of this Rule. The written request shall designate the purpose of the special meeting, and no other business shall be considered.  The provisions of the Open Public Meetings Act shall govern the procedures and conduct of special meetings. Robert's Rules of Order shall be followed at special meetings to the extent that they do not conflict with these bylaws.

RULE III
Emergency Meetings: In accordance with the requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act, the Mayor or a majority of Council members may, in writing, call for an emergency meeting of the Council. An emergency meeting may be held in any suitable place within the City of Hoboken that is accessible to the public. Whenever an emergency meeting is called, the Clerk shall immediately notify, by the most expedient means possible, all Council members, the Mayor, the Corporation Counsel, the Business Administrator, and all Directors of the date, time, location, and agenda of the meeting to the extent known. Only those matters permitted by law may be considered at an emergency meeting. Robert's Rules of Order shall be followed at special meetings to the extent that they do not conflict with these by-laws.

RULE IV
Agenda: All reports, communications, resolutions, ordinances, contract documents, or other matters to be submitted to the Council, shall be delivered to the City Clerk by 4:00 P.M. on the Thursday preceding each regular Wednesday Council meeting. A minimum of twenty-five (25) copies shall be provided to the City Clerk. The City Clerk shall immediately date and time-stamp each original submission. Thereafter, the City Clerk shall immediately prepare a typewritten meeting agenda, according to the order of business set forth in these Rules of Procedures. The City Clerk shall provide the agenda to each member of the Council, the Mayor, the Corporation Counsel, the Business Administrator, and all Directors as far in advance of the meeting as time for preparation will permit.  Normally, delivery shall be effectuated by mailing the agenda no later than 4:00 P.M. on the Friday prior to a Wednesday meeting, but may be effectuated by hand delivery in exceptional circumstances. Regular meetings held on a day other than Wednesday shall also follow thetime frames set forth in this rule to the extent possible. Thereafter, none of the foregoing matters shall be presented to the Council by the administrative heads of the several departments of the City government except those of an urgent nature, and when so presented, shall have the written approval of the Mayor before presentation to the Council_ Copies of the agenda shall be distributed to the press as far in advance of the meeting as time for preparation will permit. The agenda shall also be made available to members of the public upon request, and shall also be promptly placed on the City's website, www.hobokennj.org, in compliance with the Chapter 25 of the Code of the
City of Hoboken, "Electronic Accessibility of Public Information." Agendas for special and emergency meetings shall be prepared and distributed in compliance with this Rule to the extent practicable under the circumstances.  The provisions of the Open Public Meetings Act shall govern the conduct, agenda,
and procedures for all meetings. Pursuant to law, the Council may consider and act upon matters at a regular meeting even if the matter was not listed on the agenda, however, all ordinances and resolutions must be introduced in written or typewritten form, and copies provided to each member of the City Council, the City Clerk, and reviewed by the Corporation Counsel, before the City Council may take any action on any such ordinance or resolution. The City Clerk shall assist in providing sufficient written copies during any meeting as necessary to comply with this Rule.

RULE V
The Presiding Officer - Election and Duties: The presiding officer of the Council shall be the President, who shall be elected at the re-organizational meeting and shall hold office for a period of one (1) year. At the re-organizational meeting the Vice President of the Council shall also be elected and shall hold office for a period of one (1) year. In the President's absence, the Vice President of the Council shall preside 'over the Council. In the absence of both the President and Vice President, a presiding officer shall be elected by a majority of the Council members present. The President shall assume the chair of the presiding officer immediately after his or her election, and shall thereafter determine the seating arrangements for the remainder of the Council. The presiding officer shall preserve strict order and decorum at all meetings of the Council. The presiding officer shall state every question coming before the
Council, announce the decision of the Council on all subjects and decide all questions of order, subject, however, to an appeal to the Council, in which event a majority vote of the Council shall govern and conclusively determine such question of order. The President may vote on all questions, and his or her name will be called last.

RULE VI
Minutes: Minutes of all meetings of the City Council, including closed sessions, shall be
taken by the City Clerk in the format and manner required by law. These minutes shall
promptly be presented to the Council in resolution form and approved by a majority vote of
the City Council. Written communications from the Mayor or any member of the Council,
upon request, shall be placed in the minutes without the necessity for a vote, however, no
other written communications shall be placed in the minutes unless approved by motion.

RULE VII
Call to Order: The President shall take the, chair precisely at the hour appointed for the meeting and shall immediately call the Council to order. In the absence of the President, the Vice President shall call the Council to order. Upon the arrival of the President, the Vice President shall immediately relinquish the chair upon the conclusion of the business immediately before the Council.

RULE VIII
Roll Call: Before proceeding with the business of the Council, the City Clerk or the Deputy City Clerk shall call the roll of the members, and the names of those present shall be entered on the minutes.

RULE IX
Quorum: A majority of the whole number of members of the Council shall constitute a quorum, but no ordinance shall be adopted by the Council without the affirmative vote of the majority of the full membership of the Council, unless a supermajority is required for adoption of a particular ordinance, in which case the vote shall be that required by law.

RULE X
Order of Business: All meetings of the Council shall be open to the public promptly at the hour set for each meeting, the members of the Council shall take their regular stations in the Council Chambers, and the business of the Council shall be taken up for consideration and disposed in the following order:

1. Reading of Open Public Meetings Act notice
2. Flag salute
3. Roll call
4. Reports and communications from the Mayor
5. Reports of officers, boards and committees
6. Claims -
7. Unfinished business
8. Motions, resolutions, ordinances
9. Petitions and communications
10. New business
11. Public comment
12. Adjournment

Any citizen requesting to be heard on' resolutions or" claims shall be permitted to address the Council prior to action on those matters. Citizens may address the Council on ordinances during the public hearing on the ordinance.  In accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, the Council by resolution may go into closed executive session at any time during the meeting for the purposes provided by law.  The presiding officer, at his or her discretion, shall retain the authority to deviate from the regular order of business as necessary for the efficient conduct of the meeting, subject to override by majority vote of the Council.

RULE XI
Rules of Debate:
(a) Rights of Presiding Officer. The presiding officer may move, second and debate from the chair, subject only to such limitations of debate as are by these rules imposed upon all members and shall not be deprived of any of the rights and privileges of a Council member due to his or her status as presiding
officer.
(b) Getting the Floor. Every member desiring to speak shall address the chair, and upon recognition by the presiding officer shall confine statements to the question under debate, avoiding all personal references and indecorous language.
(c) Interruption. Upon being recognized by the chair, a member shall not be interrupted when speaking except to call the member to order or as otherwise provided herein. If a member, while speaking, is called to order, the member shall cease speaking until the presiding officer determines the question of order, and if in order the member shall be permitted to proceed. Any member may appeal to the Council from the decision of the presiding officer upon a question of order, when without debate the presiding officer shall submit to the Council the question, "Shall the decision of the chair be sustained?" and the Council shall decide by vote.
(d)- Privilege of Opening or Closing Debate. The Council member moving -the adoption of an ordinance or resolution shall have the privilege of either opening closing the debate as desired.
(e) Discussion During Vote. Upon any roll call there shall be no discussion or explanation given by any member voting, and the member shall vote aye or nay unless the member shall first receive special permission from the Council to explain the member's vote or to refrain from casting the member's vote.
(f) Limiting Debate Period. The presiding officer shall retain the power to limit the length of debate on any single question, provided, however, that Council members shall be allowed a minimum of five (5) minutes each to speak on any particular question under debate.

RULE XII
Method of Voting: The vote upon every motion, resolution or ordinance shall be taken by roll call and the results of the vote shall be entered upon the minutes. In addition to voting yea or nay, a Council member may abstain or vote "present," which has the effect of an abstention. The roll call shall be taken in alphabetical order of the members present except that the presiding officer shall vote last. Two or more resolutions may be placed on a consent agenda, and approved by a single roll call vote of the Council, provided that no member of the Council nor any member of the public wishes to be heard on any resolution listed on the consent agenda.

RULE XIII
Manner in Which the Public May Address the Council — Speaker's List: Any member of the public desiring to address the Council shall sign either the list of speakers who wish to speak on a particular agenda item, and/or shall sign the list of speakers wishing to address the Council during the public comment period. The two lists referred to in this rule shall be prepared by the City Clerk and placed in a convenient place in the City Council Chambers for the convenience of those individuals desiring to speak. Copies of the agenda will be placed nearby.

Manner in Which the Public May Address the Council – Identification.
When called upon from the speakers list or to testify as part of the public hearing and be sworn in unless otherwise informed, a member of the public shall approach the rail and microphone, speak clearly, identify themselves by name; first and last, provide spelling if requested. Then state whether they are a resident, business owner or other interested party wanted to be heard.

RULE XIV
Manner in Which the Public May Address the Council - Time Limits:
(a) A speaker may address the Council on claims but will be limited to five (5) minutes regardless of the number of claims that the speaker chooses to speak on.
(b) A speaker may speak for no more than five (5) minutes on any single resolution.
(c) A speaker may speak for no more than five (5) minutes on any single ordinance.
(d) A speaker may address the City Council on any subject relevant to the affairs and interests of the City of Hoboken when the matters on the agenda have been concluded and after the individual Council members have had an opportunity to address the Council in public. Any speaker addressing the Council during this public comment period will be limited to five (5) minutes unless the presiding officer, in his or her discretion, decides that more time should be allotted to the speaker.
(e) The City Clerk or Deputy City Clerk will monitor each speaker's time and inform the presiding officer when the speaker has used up the allotted time, at which time the speaker addressing the Council will immediately yield the floor.  Whenever possible, the speaker shall be given a warning one minute prior to the expiration of his or her time.
(f) If the speaker addressing the Council questions the Council concerning City matters, the presiding officer will answer on behalf of the Council and the time taken by the presiding officer in answering the speaker's questions will not count against the speaker's time. However, the authority of the presiding officer to answer on behalf of the Council does not preclude any other Council member from commenting on the subject under discussion upon being recognized by the presiding officer.
(f) The rules governing the time allotted to the persons addressing the City Council may be relaxed at the discretion of the presiding officer or by a majority vote of the Council members present.

RULE XV
Decorum:
(a) By Council Members. While the Council is in session, the members must preserve order and decorum and a member shall neither by conversation or otherwise, delay or interrupt the proceedings or the peace of the Council nor disturb any member while speaking or refuse to obey the orders of the Council or its presiding officer except as otherwise herein provided.
(b) By Persons. Any person making impertinent or slanderous remarks or who shall become boisterous while addressing the Council shall be forthwith, by the presiding officer, barred from further audience before the Council, unless permission to continue be granted by a majority vote of the Council.

RULE XVI
Enforcement of Decorum: The Chief of Police, or such member or members of the Police Department as the Chief may designate, shall be the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Council meeting. The Sergeant-at-Arms shall carry out all appropriate orders and instructions given by the presiding officer for the purpose of maintaining order and decorum at any Council meeting.

RULE XVII
Persons Authorized to be within the Council rail: No persons, except Council members, the City Clerk and/or Deputy City Clerk, and authorized City officers, shall be permitted within the rail in front of the Council Chamber without the express permission of the Council.

RULE XVIII
Standing Committees: All standing committees shall consist of at least three Council members, except for the Committee of the Whole, which shall consist of the full nine members of the Council. The Council President shall appoint all committee members unless otherwise ordered by the Council. The following standing Committees are hereby established:
1. Revenue and Finance.
2. Zoning, Planning and Economic Development.
3. Quality of Life.
4. Public Safety.
5. Parks and Recreation.
6. Parking and Transportation.
The Council retains the right to establish additional, special committees as required for the efficient operation of the Council. The Council President shall appoint all committee members and the chair of each committee, and shall serve as an ex-officio member of each committee. The Council President shall have the right in his or her sole discretion to remove a member from any committee, including special committees, except that a majority of the whole membership of the Council may override the President's
decision to remove a member from any regular or special committee.

The Committee of the Whole is chaired by the Council President, who has sole authority to call a meeting of the Committee, which shall be noticed for purposes of the Open Public Meetings Act as a special meeting. However, no formal action shall be taken at any meeting of the Committee of the Whole.

It shall be the duty of each committee to consider and report to the Council its findings and recommendations relating to such matters as are delegated to the committee by the Council President or by the Council, and to make recommendations to the Council relating to the operation of the several departments of the City Government.

Nothing hereinabove stated shall be construed so as to invest the membership of Said committees with any of the executive or administrative powers of the several City Departments, which are now vested in the Mayor and the Directors of the several City Departments, pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 210, Laws of 1950, and the amendments and supplements thereto.

RULE XIX
Claims against the City: No account or other demand against the City shall be allowed
until it has been considered and reported to the Council.

RULE XX
Ordinances, Resolutions, Motions and Contract Documents:
(a) Preparation of Ordinances. All ordinances shall be prepared by the Law Department, and thereafter approved as to form and legality by the Hoboken Corporation Counsel. The Law Department shall, in a timely manner, provide all necessary legal guidance and assistance to any member of the Council seeking to introduce an ordinance.
(b) Sponsorship of Ordinances and Time for Submission to City Council. Each ordinance must be sponsored by at least one member of the City Council, whose name shall be affixed thereon, and seconded by at least one other member of the City Council, prior to formal introduction and first reading.
(c) Resolutions. All resolutions must be sponsored by a member of the City Council, whose name shall be affixed thereon, and seconded by at least one other member of the City Council, prior to introduction.
(d) Other Matters and Subjects. Other matters and subjects must be read at the regular Council Meeting prior to the introduction of Resolutions and Ordinances.

RULE XXI
Reports of Committees: Committees shall make their reports in writing or orally, and shall return forthwith any petitions, resolutions, accounts or other papers submitted for their consideration upon submission of a report.

RULE XXII
Reports and Resolutions to be filed with City Clerk: All reports and resolutions shall be filed with the City Clerk and entered on the minutes.

RULE XXIII
Adjournment: A motion to adjourn shall always be in order and decided without debate.

RULE XXIV
Certification of Passage of Ordinance over Mayor's veto:

Whenever an ordinance has been vetoed by the Mayor and is passed by the Council over such veto in the manner provided by law, the City Clerk shall append to such ordinances a certification in substantially the following form:
I hereby certify that the above ordinance was passed by the Council of the city of Hoboken on the day of was vetoed by the Mayor of the City, and was passed over the said veto on the day of
DATED: City Clerk

RULE XXV
Attendance of City Officials at Council Meeting In addition to the City Clerk and the Deputy City Clerk, the directors of every City department and the Corporation Counsel shall be required to attend all meetings of the City Council unless excused by the President.

Additionally, upon request of the Council President, the Police and Fire Chiefs shall also be required to attend. Upon receiving permission from the Council President, any City official required to attend a Council meeting may be represented by designee.

RULE XXVI
Amendment of Rules of Procedure: No amendment to these Rules of Procedure shall be adopted unless it receives a vote of the majority of the full membership of the City Council.

Any such amendment shall not take effect until the second regular meeting following adoption of the amendment.

Vote was taken as amended.
---Motion duly seconded by: Councilwoman Mason.
---Adopted by the following vote: YEAS – 9 – NAYS – 0
---Yeas – Cammarano, Castellano, Cunningham, LaBruno, Mason, Ramos, Russo, Zimmer and
President Giacchi

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