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Santa Monica City Council to Explore How to Shorten Meetings


Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

February 21, 2019 -- Known for its lengthy meetings, the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on ways to streamline public testimony, including limiting a speakers' time under certain circumstances.

The key proposal would limit individual remarks to one minute -- instead of the usual two -- when 15 or more members of the public testify on a single item or if 40 or more "wish to speak on any combination of items," staff said in its report.

Staff is also recommending reducing the the amount of speaking time that can be donated to a member of the public to one minute and allowing speakers who use one minute to speak before those who use two.

"For larger than normal City Council meetings, members of the public have expressed their dissatisfaction with the wait, process, and long hours to address the Council," City staff wrote in its report.

"By creating a special time limit for lengthy meetings, Council would ensure that all members of the public who sign up have an opportunity to address the City Council but would also create a reasonable expectation of how long the wait would be to speak on an item."

Staff said the Council's retreat last month showed that speaker's can effectively make the point under a one-minute time limit.

Participants came prepared to share their comments in a succinct fashion and stayed within the allotted one-minute time limit," staff wrote.

"This allowed the meeting to progress in an efficient manner that allowed time for both the public, as well as the Council to deliberate on the matters before them."

This is not the first time the Council strives to curtail the length of meeting that routinely go past midnight.

In 2010, Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver took on the task, but instead of limiting public testimony, he suggest limiting the amount of time council members had to discuss an item.

The suggestion was met mostly with dissatisfaction ("Council Ponders How to Make a Shorter Meeting," June 24, 2010).

Later that year, the Council also explored placing a five-minute limit on oral staff reports and using timers to show public speakers and council members how long they had been speaking ("Development Agreements, Length of Meetings on City Council Agenda," September 10, 2010).

Debates over how to shorten Council meetings prompted a memorable remark from former Mayor Bob Holbrook.

Holbrook, a pharmacist who had to be at work early, looked at his colleagues on the dais, who would routinely pontificate until one or two in the morning.

Then he leaned towards the microphone and made a simple acknowledgment.

"Some of my colleagues", he said, "have nocturnal habits."

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