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Sarasota City Hall
Sarasota Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 1 month ago

City reschedules commission meetings for evenings

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A majority of the City Commission is hoping to improve the efficiency of board meetings, but not everyone is supportive of the changes.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

The City Commission is revising its schedule to meet exclusively in the evenings, a move that came after a series of discussions revealed divisions among elected officials on procedural matters.

At a Jan. 4 meeting, the commission voted 4-1 to move to a new calendar in which the board will meet up to four times a month. The commission will meet from 6-10 p.m. on the first and third Monday and Tuesday of each month, with Tuesday meetings held only as necessary for major discussion items. The new schedule will take effect Feb. 1.

Commissioners Erik Arroyo and Hagen Brody led the push to move away from the schedule of semiweekly meetings beginning at 1:30 p.m. Arroyo and Brody said they believed moving meetings out of the traditional workday would provide benefits for commissioners and the public.

“I think it puts us on the right track to become a very efficient city where people are engaged, and we have predictability,” Arroyo said.

Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch cast the vote against the new meeting schedule. Ahearn-Koch said she did not see a problem with the length of commission meetings and expressed concern that holding four meetings a month could interfere with commissioners’ schedules.

Although city administration said they thought evening meetings could be accommodated without negatively affecting staff schedules, Ahearn-Koch encouraged management to track any budgetary impacts attributable to the change.

“If it’s going to potentially save us money, we should know that,” Ahearn-Koch said. “If it’s costing us money, we should know that, too.”

The commission also directed staff to explore opportunities for members of the public to provide input at meetings via prerecorded videos.

Ahearn-Koch has been a critic of another recent change to the commission’s meeting procedures. Brody, selected as mayor in a 3-2 commission vote in November, has sought to implement more rigorous time limits throughout board meetings. That includes imposing limits on the amount of time commissioners have to ask questions during public hearings, which led to a standoff between Brody and Ahearn-Koch at the Jan. 4 meeting as she challenged his authority to establish the restrictions.

City Attorney Robert Fournier said the commission as a body needed to set its rules of procedure. Subsequently, the board voted 3-2 to maintain time limits on commissioner questions for a series of Jan. 4 public hearings. Ahearn-Koch and Alpert cast dissenting votes; Brody, Arroyo and Kyle Scott Battie formed the majority.

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