BC council hammers out new citizen request procedure for council agenda

Published 1:06 pm Thursday, May 24, 2018

By Larry Holt

The Orange Leader


During the May 22, 2018 workshop Mayor David Rutledge said assigning a council person to work with the citizen after the citizen has made a request to place their item on the council agenda for discussion is, “kinda letting us all be advocates for the citizens. We are not changing the fact they (the citizen) can send in a request to be on the agenda. That’s not being changed. It’s just adding a little bit of a step in there to make sure that their issue hasn’t gotten lost in the shuffle somewhere.”

The substantive change to the existing policy was explained by Rutledge referring to the citizen… “If they want to be put on the council (agenda) they send the request in writing, that hadn’t changed. City Secretary will try and help get that started by assigning one of the council members (on a rotating basis) to investigate for that person and see if that is really an issue that should be brought before the council or just something that needs to be done. Some citizens, you know as well as I do, don’t like to speak in public. So we can help allay their fears and make them more comfortable and will have a better experience.”

Council member Carl Harbert said, “If they did have an issue we can explain to them where we’re at after we follow up with Jerry (City Manager) and report back to them.”

“We aren’t changing the work order system,” Council member Lucy Fields said. “Sometimes it’s just getting them the information they (the citizen) doesn’t know.”

Current discussion for the need to change the procedure seemed to contradict earlier statements made, in March 2018, when Bridge City resident Joseph Hannan, and at the time a declared candidate for city council, was denied his request to have a drainage issue placed on the city council agenda by City Attorney Paul Fukuda via email.

In that email Fukuda wrote in part, “It has come to my attention that we will be required to clarify how citizen requests for agenda items are processed and implemented. The current policy does not specify that criteria.”

In April 2018, Fukuda further clarified the city council is looking into changing the policy because, “We don’t have procedures for handling non-sponsored requests from citizens.”

Subsequently, during the May 1 City Council meeting, Rutledge said the mayor is responsible for everything that goes on in the city and the mayor must “run all the traps, so to speak” to ensure all remedy has been exhausted before an agenda item request from a citizen is considered for inclusion.

During the May 22 workshop, Council Member Kirk Roccaforte said, “We’ve had a lot of things going on…   A good example is the water issue. The council heard about the water issue for years and lots of citizen complaints. When we were able to do something we were able to move forward and that solved most all the complaints and that’s an example of people wanting to be on the agenda to complain about the water.”

Roccaforte continued, “…we put those fires out for years. We couldn’t solve the problem until we could get into a position to solve those problems. People just don’t understand the situation. So we had to take a lot of beating up here through people that thought they had more knowledge than they actually knew what was going on, and through our media out here, and they were tearing us up in here and we were moving forward on things the whole time.”

“As far as requesting an item be on the agenda,” Roccaforte said. “I’m good with it as long as it’s been through the channels… as long as they’ve already exhausted the regular avenues of the city, i.e. again putting in a request for something being on a work order.”

“… so they’re not happy (the citizen) with how fast the crew’s are getting there so then they (the citizen) want to be on the agenda,” Roccaforte said. “So they send a letter I want to be on the agenda ‘cuz I wanna talk about my problem but they haven’t exhausted the avenues of the way to go through things for the city and then it starts creating other problems for things they (the city) are doing already. The reality is that we don’t have the manpower and money and the equipment to just do everything in that fashion, in that speed that people want.”

When referring to the proposed change to the procedure to assign a council member as contact for the citizen request Roccaforte said, “We start getting people calling because the ditch in front of my house is not dug right. That’s not really an agenda item. You need to call the city and have them go check it and get you in line and so on and so forth. And those things if we’re not careful we’re going to create a whole bunch of these and so, that’s the part that bothers me about it. When you say someone requests to be on the council and be assigned a council person, so now everybody’s gonna start requesting to be on the agenda cuz that’s gonna be the way we get something resolved.”

Rutledge responded saying the citizen has always had the right to submit a request for their issue to be placed on the city council agenda for city council discussion.

“It’s always been their right. We’re not changing that,” Rutledge said. “We’re only changing the way we administer it and take some of the load off the city manager and have us shoulder a little bit of that load.”

Council member Tammi Fisette said, “I think communications is a big part of it.”

Fields responded, “Calls into the city and the three minute public comments during council meetings won’t change.”

Rutledge confirmed Fields was correct and said, “This is just a little bit of a step to try and help take some of the load off our staff and put the monkey on us to help our citizen and help it go a little smoother such that we don’t have a whole bunch of people up here that are all mad at us because we hadn’t done anything because we didn’t know there was an issue.”

By virtue of the discussion, the council was in agreement with changing the current City of Bridge City Council Decorum and Procedures Policy adopted by City Council on January 15, 2008.

Proposed changes to the procedures policy will be voted on by the city council at an upcoming council meeting and then made available on the city webpage.