Council to consider rules change

WESTFIELD Two City Council committees tonight will present the initial draft of the rules by which the council conducts meetings and business.
The Ad Hoc Charter and Rules Committee and the Legislative & Ordinance Committee will conduct a joint meeting before the regular council session to conduct a final review of that rules document before it is presented to the full council.
Ward 2 Councilor James E. Brown Jr., chairman of the L&O said Wednesday that the Council Rules are set by ordinance and will require two readings before the final passage. Brown said the committees anticipate amendments, passed by a majority of the council, will be incorporated into the final document for the second reading and final passage.
“We will bring this out for the first reading for discussion and to entertain any amendments,” Brown said.
The rule changes are designed to streamline the process of conducting City Council business and to eliminate some of the committee redundancy.
“There are a couple of committees where we can modify that committee’s area of responsibility,” Brown said. “Some may be eliminated entirely. The Council may decide to fold the duties of the Long-range Bonding Committee into the Finance Committee.”
The change of rules will restructure the process of moving legislation through the council.
“The L&O will have a little less on its plate because all financial issues, including bond orders, will go through the Finance Committee without the need to bring it out of the L&O as well,” Brown said. “Another change is that zoning changes will go just to the Zoning, Planning & Development Committee.”
The idea, one the council members have discussed for some time, is to reduce the redundancy of committee review.
“We’d like to eliminate dual committees looking at the same issue,” Brown said.
“Another item is that each committee would have to report out items to the full council within 90 days,” he said. “After that 90 day period, any council member can make a motion from the floor to bring out that item. If a majority of the council members support that councilor’s motion, it will be placed on the agenda for the next meeting.”
Ward 4 Councilor Mary O’Connell, chairwoman of the Ad Hoc Charter and Rules Committee, said members of the committees have worked with Peter Martin, the retired Law Department supervisor, for nearly a year to revise the council rules and amend the City Charter.
“We feel that we have a document, a modernized set of rules that will be a good working guideline for council procedure, a road map for running meetings,” O’Connell said this morning. “We tried to simplify it.”
“We didn’t agree 100 percent on everything, but it was a good collaborative effort to make this work and to get a good end product,” she said.
The rule change will also provide greater access to the council by members of the public.
O’Connell said, “We change the rules to allow the public to speak on issues that are on the agenda. I’m happy we did that so at least now people will have greater opportunity to say their piece.”

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