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Council reform not quite new

The streamlining of the Grand Forks City Council is moving apace with council members agreeing tentatively Monday night to a new structure that eliminates two of about eight monthly meetings.

The streamlining of the Grand Forks City Council is moving apace with council members agreeing tentatively Monday night to a new structure that eliminates two of about eight monthly meetings.

Instead of some issues going to one of two so-called "standby" committees for discussion, then to the Committee of the Whole for more discussion and finally to the council for a vote, they'll just skip the Committee of the Whole.

Council President Hal Gershman has pushed for the change just as he had pushed for the creation of the Committee of the Whole back in 2000.

His proposal now is to convene the standby committees on the second and fourth Mondays and Tuesdays of the month and the council on the first and third Mondays starting in May.

The standby committees, which have not been televised, would be.

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Council member Mike McNamara said he agrees with the change because standby committee discussions tend to have more detail and depth than those at Committees of the Whole. "The fights are better, too," he said, referring to the informality of the standby committees.

Gershman said the council would now have "Monday night fights" on TV.

Council members settled on a meeting time of 5:30 p.m., the current meeting council meeting time, to give residents a chance to get home after work and watch the council.

City residents have seen something like this before.

Before 2000, a group of reform-minded council members, including the then-freshman Gershman, succeeded in eliminating standing committees, made up of only a few council members, and put all issues before the Committee of the Whole, made up of the entire council.

Gershman said then that the numerous committees made the time constraints of being a council member so excessive that few people, especially younger people at the start of their careers, would be able to run.

Yet, a few years ago, the council decided to create standby committees because they found some issues too time-consuming to deal with at the Committee of the Whole. The standby committees were only supposed to meet when such issues come up.

They seem to have come up so regularly that the standby committees meet as if they were standing committees, reverting to the old way of doing things.

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Council Vice President Eliot Glassheim joked about that when he said he wished the council would meet at 7 p.m. again as it used to. "But I lost that fight a few years ago. It'll come around again if I wait 10, 15 years."

The difference with 2000, of course, is none of those meetings were televised.

Related Topics: GRAND FORKS CITY COUNCIL
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