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Finding Ways to Cut the Length of City Council Meetings

The City Council will discuss ways of shortening the length of Council meetings by limiting the presentations given at the beginning of meetings. Currently, those presentations often take 60 to 90 minutes of the meeting time.

West Hollywood City Council meetings have a reputation for being endurance tests. The Council meetings which begin at 6:30 p.m. frequently don’t end until midnight or later.  

While the Council has been dealing with huge agendas in recent months, part of the reason the meetings run so long is because the Council gives out awards and proclamations at the beginning of the meetings.

These presentations frequently take up 60 or 90 minutes of the meeting time between announcing the proclamations, posing for photos and giving recipients time to speak.

An item on Monday night’s council agenda would seek to limit those presentations. Mayor Jeff Prang and Councilmember John D’Amico are sponsoring the item which offers several alternatives including putting a cap on the number of presentations given per night, limiting acceptance speeches and making these presentations at the actual events themselves.

“It’s not that we don’t believe that recognitions are important; it’s an important part of who we are as a city that we acknowledge people,” Prang told Patch. “The problem is that a lot of the business that people are coming to the meeting for is being delayed by the presentations.”

As things stand currently, members of the public who wish to speak on a particular item often end up leaving before that item is heard because they have to get up for work the next morning. So, a benefit of limiting presentations is that it likely would foster more public participation.

“Jamming up the first hour to hour and a half of the meeting with presentations, I don’t think is a good way of encouraging public participation,” D’Amico told Patch. “If we were getting to the city’s business at 6:50 [after the required 20 minutes of public comment] instead of 8:15, it would work much better.”

Another reason for limiting presentations is that the Councilmembers themselves are tired by the end of the night too. All five Councilmembers work day jobs in addition to their city responsibilities.

“I’m not at my sharpest at 11 p.m.; I’ve been up since 6 a.m. and I’m not always able to give my best,” said Prang, noting that it’s not fair to the public, city staff or the city for the Council to be making major decisions so late at night.

“What we’re hoping to do is find a way to streamline the presentation process,” Prang said. “Find a balance between the presentations and the business we are there to do.”

Ironically, the Council was originally scheduled to discuss this item at its July 2 meeting, but postponed it due to a heavy agenda.

Monday night, the council faces another heavy agenda, but Prang says they will discuss limiting the presentations. However, given that there are several big items on the agenda ahead of this item, it could be 11 p.m. before they start talking about it.

The City Council meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber in

joninla July 16, 2012 at 08:13 AM
I've been very impressed with Mr. D'Amico taking bold action to effect positive change (I've failed to mention it, but I have seen and been very glad to see him try to change the way the city has been doing the old routine over and over). What seems most interesting to me (by that I mean I am not interested, but pointing out the obvious out of frustration and disgust with the real power holders on the council) that this idea to shorten the meetings is being "sponsored" by 2 (of 5) City Council Members at the next public meeting. The weekly meetings are required under California Law for small municipalities that were incorporated under the same method and rules to created a city. Neither the meeting nor the issues under CA law that are applicable can be changed, even by vote of the Council. But the long and slow moving weekly honors and awards given out by the City to what I imagine are very much well deserved, are NOT covered by any of the mandatory meeting laws which apply to issues affecting the City and could have an impact on the Residents. For 25 some odd years John Heilman has presided over the Ceremonial weekly awards and knows how they take up the majority of the meeting and leads to many Residents getting to tired to stay to the issues and comments portion of each weekly meeting. It 'almost' seems like Heilman likes the reduction in pubic comment the awards causes.
Todd Bianco July 16, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Getting rid of the endless presentations and related photographs would be a welcome relief. Perhaps they can allot 1 hour for public comment at the beginning of the meeting and perhaps start a bit earlier, maybe at 6 pm. Starting on time would be a good thing too. It also may make sense to schedule fewer public hearings or less business for each session. There are several Monday meetings that are cancelled during the year. I think that the meetings could still go on even if one council member is missing. If they think that an item is so contentious that the vote will be split 3-2 or 2-3 then those items can be scheduled for when all members can be present. If not, then maybe adding an extra meeting day during the week or even on a weekend might work to spread things out. I wonder if the City is getting so busy that it should have paid full-time Council members. Will John Heilman give up his new gig at Southwestern Law School? I doubt it. And we know Abbe isn't giving up the lucrative gig at The Trevor Project. They are in fundraising mode 24/7 and need her expertise. It would give more time for residents to meet with their elected representatives. Add that to a 3 term limit as is being proposed and we may have a more responsive city government.
jimmy palmieri July 16, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Some of the council members have taken to give commendations simply in order to try to build a coalition of voters that they lost in the last election. it is so obvious that it is sad.
Shawn Thompson July 16, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Thank You to John D'Amico and Jeffery Prang for bringing this to the table! Great Work!
anne grannysmith July 16, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Just think how much longer these meetings would be if they put on the agenda EVERYTHING they are suppose to: --Joan English' $104,000 double dip contract --John Duran's fraudulent use of the taxpayer's credit card, still under investigation by the DA --the $200-thousand study for a new city hall --the $90 million budget --$13 million robo-garage behind city hall, which apparently is going to be moving from its current location anyways --$1,300 shopping spree in the city of LA for gifts for longtime city employees (what a F*CK YOU to businesses in WeHo and Chamber of Commerce) ---$100,000 for PR experts since the city's multimillion dollar 6-person in-house Public Relations team is ridiculously not enough??? --Demolition of the original library (instead this happened under tarps, clearly an attempt to thwart transparency) --Plummer Park. Plummer Park. Plummer Park.
Rudolf Martin July 17, 2012 at 01:17 AM
the robo-garage price tag has gone up to $16 million. that's $121,212.12 per added parking space. 120 of the 200 spaces will be reserved for city hall employees. city hall employs about 105 people (correct me if i'm wrong). and city hall has one foot out the door of that building. by my (admittedly layman's) estimate, operation of the robo garage will cost $ 50,000.00 per month. that's another $6 million every 10 years. parking fees for residents just went up another 50%.
joninla July 17, 2012 at 08:57 AM
The more the better is fine with me, so long as they hold the entire ceremonial awards presentations on a different night than the weekly meetings that are dealing with real issues. It's such a no brainer of a solution to a the problem, we should not only be thankful for Mr. D'Amico bringing this up for Council Vote that any council member who does not fully support and vote for the obvious should be noted for both their total lack of basic meeting and organization and the resulting effects of a no vote is a clear statement that those Council Members are trying to keep public participation from being given as the law requires the City to have. Is WeHo going to turn into Washington and have 23 votes to repeal health care knowing it will never pass? Are we going to see Mr. Heilman 'table' the motion for further 'study'? I am glad, however, West Hollywood DOES already have 'term limits' in place, needing only to be well advertised to the voters how to enact the term limits ..... Just don't vote for the reigning incumbents and once they are out of office via the existing term limits Mr. Heilman loves to bring up, a new opened minded council member along with the great steps Mr. D'Amico has started will write formal term limits into our city's voting process. I hope everyone watches this upcoming vote on such a simple and obvious solution.
joninla July 17, 2012 at 09:09 AM
Rudolf - check with Stephanie, but the $16 Million dollar price tag has been that for quite a while now. I have been as opposed/shocked/disgusted with this plan for the robo garage at least as much as you, if not more so. That was before any word of moving city hall ever came up. Now that the city has so brazenly done the unimaginable in bringing up and funding a move for City Hall before the stupid Robo Garage has even broken ground, I think an audit of exactly where that feasibly study goes to. With Santa Ana going bankrupt and hearing local residents on the news say that they were always told their city was running in the Black and the Bankruptcy was a total surprise, we should make sure what we are told by city hall about the fiscal soundness of West Hollywood is even close to accurate. Finally - I think the operational costs are going to be much higher than your estimate and is so off the scale for a new annual city expense, that alone has more than enough merit to stop this project. It just keeps getting more and more expensive as the insanity of the other plans for the City emerge and seem to have been made without even realizing it conflicts with the B.S. about the need for the robo garage.
Chloe Ross July 17, 2012 at 06:25 PM
When you are a small city with money you get carried away When you get carried away you find Hammacher Schlemmer products like a Robo-Garage a must have When you seriously consider putting a robo garage behind city hall for $16M you begin to act and sound like Mitt Romney who is ridiculed for a similar extravagance Don't act and sound like Mitt Romney and get ridiculed. Use that money for something the enitire city can use and enjoy.

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