Rescheduling the public’s business
ASPEN The new Aspen City Council is not as efficient as it would like to be and isn’t making decisions under the best circumstances.That’s why it plans to gauge the public’s interest in moving City Council meetings to Tuesday afternoons instead of Monday nights, the way it has been for more than three decades.Mayor Mick Ireland presented the idea Wednesday during a two-day City Council retreat. The newly elected mayor listed several justifications for changing the time of public meetings, as well as to another day in the week. One of those reasons is that elected officials are making decisions after most people go to bed.”I think it’s good to work at this stuff when you are still awake,” Ireland said. “It drives us into a part of the night when we are not as efficient.”Residents have complained in the past that City Council meetings, which begin at 5 p.m., are too long. For example, Monday’s meeting went to nearly 11 p.m.”I don’t think we should be making decisions at 10 or 11 p.m.,” said City Councilman Steve Skadron.The proposal is to move the regular City Council meeting to 2 p.m. Tuesday and have it end by 6 p.m. The work session, which is currently at 4 p.m. Tuesdays would move to the same time Wednesdays.A motivating factor for Ireland to change the regular meeting to Tuesday is that he is not adequately prepared on Mondays because the council agenda materials are not available until four days prior, which doesn’t give him enough time to fully absorb what he’s making decisions on.”I don’t plan to be here every Friday for the next two years and rush to City Hall and read a 300-page packet. … I didn’t sign up for that,” he said, adding that he’s out of town many weekends and doesn’t have a lot of time to read the council packet.He also argued that staff is too busy on Mondays to answer his questions stemming from the materials given to him.”I go into the meeting with only what I am able to glean from skimming 300 pages,” he said, adding that moving the meetings to Tuesday afternoons might also be better for the public because Mondays are generally busy for the average person who might prefer to be at home at night.Before being elected in June, Ireland served on the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners, which meets during the day.City councilmen J.E. DeVilbiss and Jack Johnson, who have been in office for two years, don’t see a need for change but are willing to gauge the public’s interest.”We’re changing some things that I might not change at all,” DeVilbiss said. “I want to know what the public wants and expects.”However, Johnson takes exception to changing the timing of the meetings because it conflicts with his day job. The other four City Council members are either self-employed or retired.”I will adapt, but I think it’s unfair to ask it of me or anyone like me,” Johnson said. “I don’t know what kind of job that will allow me to work Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. That’s a deal-breaker for me.”Johnson said he doesn’t think it’s fair to cut into his livelihood because Ireland takes long weekends.DeVilbiss also said moving meetings to suit individual tastes is wrong and told Ireland he was being cavalier in his reasoning. Ireland responded that it is as much about the public’s convenience as it for him and city staff.”I don’t think Monday is a good day for the public,” he said. “It’s insanity to have a Monday meeting.”What Johnson does agree on with his colleagues is that the packet of materials that come with the agenda, which can be more than 500 pages long, are not available in enough time to be fully prepared for Monday meetings. As a result, the council directed staff to have the material prepared seven days in advance of any public meeting.”The reading materials are voluminous, to say the least,” Ireland said.Carolyn Sackariason can be reached at email@example.com
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