Committees to present Council rules

WESTFIELD – Members of two City Council committees voted Monday night to present the revised rules by which the council conducts business at the Feb. 2 session for further debate and modification.
The members of the Ad Hoc Charter and Rules Committee and the Legislative & Ordinance Committee voted to bring the document, which has taken nearly a year to revise, onto the floor of the council following a discussion of how to proceed with that process.
Ward 4 Councilor Mary O’Connell, chairwoman of the Charter & Rules Committee, suggested a special meeting be slated for council review of the proposed rules as a Committee of the Whole through the L&O because council rules are set by city ordinance. All 13 council members would be involved with modifying the proposed document under that approach and the final document would be voted upon at the next council meeting.
The advantage of the Committee as a Whole option, O’Connell said, is that council members would be able to focus just on the rules issue without the pressure of dealing with other agenda items
“We should have an idea of what we want to do going into it,” she said. “It’s a landmark document, we should make it special.”
Ward 2 Councilor James E. Brown Jr., chairman of the L&O, asked the other members if there were any glaring issues with the latest revision of the document. The latest version is the document which came out of a four-hour discussion of the proposed rules conducted on Tuesday, Jan. 17 with Attorney Peter Martin, the former Law Department supervision, who was hired to assist the council with both the charter and rules revisions.
At-large Councilor John J. Beltrandi, a member of the L&O said that he had read the revised document in detail and that Martin had incorporated all changes agreed upon by the committees at the Jan. 17 joint committee meeting.
The two committees differed philosophically on some of the changes and agreed to allow the full council to decide on which approach will be adopted.
“We’ve all agreed that there will be some issues we will hash out on the floor,” Brown said Monday night. “It will be an open discussion just like any other ordinance. If any members would like to amend it, that can be done from the floor.”
“We have a week of advance notice to stake a claim on a position,” he said.
Ward 6 Councilor Christopher Crean, a member of the Finance Committee, did raise the issue of advisory committees.
The council president, under the revised rules, has the authority to appoint members of the council’s 10 standing committees and ad hoc committees. Both of those committees are comprised of only City Council members.
The president also has the authority to establish advisory committees to investigate special issues and present a report back to the council. Advisory Committees can be composed of municipal staff members, citizens and subject matter experts as well as councilors.
Crean suggested that the creation of a special advisory committee should require confirmation of the full council and should have a sunset date not to exceed the end of the council term in which the committee was established, and could be given a more limited timeline, such as 90 or 120 days, through the council’s confirmation vote.
Brown requested Crean being that issue before the council as an amendment.
Members of both committees voted unanimously to present that latest version to the full council at the Feb. 2 session.

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