Home > Elected Officials, Flagstaff, New Media, Northern Arizona, Politics, Uncategorized > Fact Check: Will City’s Majority Rule Change Impact The Democratic Process?

Fact Check: Will City’s Majority Rule Change Impact The Democratic Process?

By Elisha Dorfsmith

Flagstaff social media is buzzing with concern and disappointment that council voted 4-3 on Tuesday to change the number of council members it takes to move an item to the second stage from 3 to 4. Critics are saying that this change undermines democracy and will shut out public participation in the city process.

While I have been and remain neutral on this issue (if anything I lean toward one vote to move something to the next phase), I feel it is important to separate the facts from the fear.

The truth is, this rule change doesn’t really do much at all. Here is how things will work moving forward:

A council member or citizens with a petition will submit a request for a future agenda item. A few weeks later, that item will be put on an agenda as a FAIR (Future Agenda Item Request). At that point, the public has the opportunity to show up and speak for or against the item. After public participation, council will vote to see if they have enough interest to move the item forward. It will now take four votes instead of three if council wants to get staff involved and move the item to a regular agenda.

The key thing to remember here is that public participation is still intact. The democratic process is still intact. The only thing this rule change really changes is the staff time involved on items that ultimately don’t move forward.

Interestingly, there was a time not long ago when council required four votes to move something forward and also did NOT allow public participation on Future Agenda Item Requests.

Council recently, under the direction of Jeff Meilbeck, changed the rules to allow public participation on the FAIR section of the agenda. I was the ONLY member of the public who showed up to support allowing public comment on these items. The vote was unanimous. Unfortunately, council never received credit from the local paper or left leaning political groups for that positive change to improve the democratic process.

Critics of Tuesday’s rule change also mention that they are opposed to the new City Charter change that now requires 25 signatures on a citizen petition before council considers it. They said that this change was another blow to democracy.

What these people don’t seem to understand is that Flagstaff voters voted for that amendment. The majority of voters wanted to change the requirement from 1 to 25 signatures. I strongly opposed that change and voted against it but I was in the minority. This is democracy. On election night we saw the democratic process work.

Back to Tuesday’s meeting, in a final epic hypocritical move, Evans, Barotz, and Putzova joined the rest of council in voting to reject considering a citizen petition regarding parking. They voted against it even though the petition had over 100 signatures on it.

Councilmember Barotz said that these citizens and their petition got in the way of the City process. Evans and Putzova agreed. So, after complaining all night about rule changes that they felt hurt democracy, these three council members ended the session with the biggest slap in the face to the democratic process of the evening.

You really can’t make this stuff up.

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  1. November 19, 2015 at 11:54 am

    From 3 to 4 to make it go forward is double edged. Like you say less things get public input so issues people may want to talk about.

    It also will keep things from going to a vote and may slow down them spending your money!

    Drake

    Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2015 18:05:05 +0000 To: mitchell3006@hotmail.com

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