Mixed Reviews For New OC Meeting Format

OCEAN CITY – Mixed feelings remain over the Mayor and City Council reformatted meeting agendas.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office">

The Ocean City Mayor and Council have met on several occasions since the new public comment period and consent agenda format were approved. Last month, the council approved a couple of measures adjusting the format for the bi-weekly regular meetings, including moving the public comment period to the front of the agenda and adopting a “consent agenda” policy for routine agenda items.

For years, the council has allowed a public comment period at the end of the regular sessions with a five-minute limit on speakers from the public. Responding to problems with the format, the council approved a new format putting the public comment period at the beginning of the meetings with a three-minute limit.

“To me it reminds me of having a book report in high school and not being able to read the book because in order to comment I have to be able to hear what you all have to see and what your decisions are,”  resident Frank Adkins said last week. “In the beginning of the meeting, I don’t know what you’re going to talk about, what you’re going to argue about, what you’re going to discuss even though it is on the agenda but things change. I would like to see the minutes moved to the end of the meeting.”

Other public comments addressed agenda items specifically, to the point where one speaker ran through the agenda item by item listing questions and concerns while the Mayor and City Council took notes.

“Tonight you saw comments from the citizens work effectively,” City Manager David Recor said at the conclusion of last week’s meeting. “The agenda is posted online Thursday prior to the Monday regularly scheduled meeting. The background material is available online. The public has the weekend to review that material and identify their issues. You saw a citizen tonight take advantage of that, they identified … again the purpose was to provide those comments to the council in advance of their discussion, and I just thought you saw that work effectively. I would encourage you to leave it at the beginning of the agenda as it appears to be working the way it was intended.”

The consent agenda last week contained several items regarding private event requests, everything from the Dew Tour to a wedding on the boardwalk. Due to several concerns from various council members, four out of the six requests were removed from the consent agenda for separate discussions.

“As far as the consent agenda goes this evening, there are going to be times where items are removed off the consent agenda … you see the staff is prepared to discuss them in whatever detail you need to make an informed decision,” Recor assured the council. “Bigger items like the Dew Tour, I think it stands to reason that you should pull those off the consent agenda and present them for the public’s information.”

During council comments Councilman Brent Ashley made a recommendation on how to have the public become more involved with the council meetings.

“Since I have been on the council, I have citizens ask me how they can have items placed on the council agenda for discussion, and I have always told them to ask the council president,” he said. “However, during a recent visit to the website for Cocoa Beach, Fla., they make available to their citizens an agenda item request form, which creates an official record of their request.”

Ashley asked for the concept to be placed on a future agenda to be discussed.