Who should be able to agendize an item for a Half Moon Bay City Council meeting?

The Brown Act is clear that only items previously agendized and noticed 72 hours before a meeting of a public agency can be acted on or even discussed by that body.  Thus the power to put an item on the meeting agenda is crucial to the working of any government agency. 

The Half Moon Bay City Council has recently enacted a policy to reduce transparency and stifle democracy. Last January the majority on the Council voted to deny minority members the ability to place any items of concern on the agenda for upcoming meetings, thus 
denying the minority the right to put something on the agenda for a meeting without first getting at least a majority vote at a previous meeting. One Councilmember referenced “endangered elephants” in his reasoning for why minority members cannot be allowed to bring anything to a meeting agenda.

As a result of this action the City Manager and Mayor both have the authority to place an item on the agenda, but individual elected Councilmembers do not. The City Manager has more authority now in HMB than actual Councilmembers who were voted into office. The Councilmember who gathered by far the largest number of votes in the last election has wanted to agendize some items, but she has already been denied this right.

This policy is a continuation of a long standing informal policy from 2005 when the Council majority did not want to hear the ideas of an elected representative and adopted the “Grady Rule” effectively silencing one of their own.  Prior to that time, getting an item on an agenda was possible and even private citizens could ask to get an item on the agenda.

Other public agencies allow their board members more discretionary powers.  For example, the Coastside Fire Protection District allows any Board member or member of the public to place any relevant item on the agenda with at least a week’s notice. 

AFOG believes the Half Moon Bay City Council should follow this example and allow any single Councilmember the right to agendize any item. One of the arguments brought out against this proposal was that City staff doesn’t have the time or personnel to produce staff reports for these agenda items.  AFOG believes that Councilmembers can discuss their own agenda items as appropriate without undue use of staff resources.  After all, isn’t that why we elected the representatives in the first place?