How a consent agenda works; take Glenwood Springs City Council for example
Few would argue with a way to speed up city government meetings.
Toward the beginning of most city council meetings a few minutes are usually reserved for the consent agenda, which contains a few items that are approved without discussion by a single vote of the city council.
“Typically, the consent agenda is going to contain things that are fairly routine and noncontroversial,” Glenwood Springs city attorney Karl Hanlon said.
“You’ll see things like meeting minutes. … Typically the second reading on an ordinance is on the consent agenda because the charter doesn’t require a public hearing on second reading,” he said.
Expenditures that are budgeted for and which are noncontroversial also make the consent agenda. Hanlon gave as example the broadband vehicle purchase from the July 16 City Council meeting.
Projects that have gone out to bid are also candidates for the consent agenda.
“Things like hard bids, we give it to the lowest bidder, so if it is budgeted for and bid that way … it’s not something that’s open to a lot of discussion,” Hanlon said.
There are not hard and fast rules as to what items are appropriate for inclusion on the consent agenda.
“In every single jurisdiction I work in it’s a little bit of an art, not a science, on what feels like the right things to go on a consent agenda,” Hanlon said.
Just because items are routine doesn’t mean that the vote will be unanimous.
“There’s no requirement for unanimity on a vote on the consent agenda, but it does typically reflect things that there’s general consensus on,” Hanlon said.
Hanlon said there might be a couple of “no” votes a year.
One of them was during the July 16 council meeting.
Councilor Tony Hershey asked for a roll call vote on the agenda, and it passed 6-1 with him dissenting.
Hershey did not make it clear in that meeting what he objected to.
“The two things I was concerned with are spending another $150,000 on broadband vehicles and then this reshaping of the Downtown Development Authority,” he said in a followup interview.
Hershey said there is one primary place money should be spent.
“I’m voting against expenditures that are not related to infrastructure. That’s my big concern,” he said.
As for the DDA, “This is not an organization that is designed to do economic recovery; it’s a development authority that puts in flower pots. That’s not the purpose of the board, and [as for] the director that’s not where her skill set is,” he said.
Though Hershey opted not to, items can be pulled off the consent agenda by councilors.
“If any council member wants to pull something off, typically they will ask to do that and have it discussed separately,” Hanlon said.
Hershey said that didn’t make sense for the items on the July 16 agenda.
“I’m not going to waste the people’s time by pulling things just to have a 6-1 vote [on each]. Seems like a waste, so it’s easier just to vote no [on the entire consent agenda],” he said.
Hershey also said that people would likely know what he’s opposed to from his comments at previous meetings.
Citizens can also get items off the consent agenda.
“Oftentimes, you may have citizens appearing before council just raise the issue that, ‘Hey, there’s something on the consent agenda that either I would like to see pulled off or I would like to comment on,’ and we’d obviously always take those comments,” Hanlon said.
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