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Palo Alto will still publish agendas -- but shorter

City Council scraps proposal by City Clerk to stop publishing agendas in local newspaper

Palo Alto will continue to publish City Council agendas in a local newspaper, though these agendas will soon look a little slimmer and much less formal, the council voted 7-2 Monday night.

The ordinance requires the city to publish agendas in a "newspaper of general circulation." The city publishes its agendas in the Weekly, which gets mailed to residents on the Friday before the Monday meetings.

The ordinance applies only to meetings of the full council meetings council standing committees, not to other city committees or commissions, which show up in departmental budgets.

City Clerk Donna Grider proposed eliminating the publishing requirement, to save the city about $35,000 in the current fiscal year.

Agenda publication cost the city about $20,000 in the last fiscal year (not $35,000 as Grider initially reported). She estimated that the cost would rise this year up to $35,000 because the council now has a High-Speed Rail Committee that meets several times a month.

Councilman Larry Klein and Councilwoman Gail Price were the only council members who supported Grider's proposal. Klein said most people don't read the agendas in the newspaper and that younger people get their information in other ways.

The rest of the council voted to continue publishing the agendas, but in a slightly different form.

Councilwoman Karen Holman said the cost of publicizing the agendas in the newspaper is a "very low price to pay for transparency that we all strive for in this community."

Mayor Pat Burt suggested summarizing the items in "common language" and including links to the city's website for more information.

The agenda summaries would be shorter than the full agenda, which the council agreed would keep advertising costs down. Residents would be able to view the full, formal agenda on the city's website.

Six council members agreed with Burt's proposal, with Greg Scharff calling it "the middle ground."

"It's fiscally responsible yet it maintains the transparency and public participation," Scharff said.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Pleasantly Surprised
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 28, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I'm impressed! An unexpectedly good result from City Council.

Publication of the Council agendas in the Weekly is perhaps the most effective outreach to all Palo Alto residents, and I think that the information will be much more effectively delivered if it is simplified into plain language and shortened to highlight the important and most relevant features of the agenda item, instead of the wordy and difficult-to-decipher legalistic language used in the formal agenda. I'm glad the City Council took this opportunity to save some money and improve things at the same time.

Hopefully, the shortened and simplified version of the agenda will also be made available online for those of us who want to view this shorter, easier-to-understand version of the agenda. It will be a nice improvement to be able to get a quick overview of the agenda at-a-glance instead of having to scroll through endlessly long and verbose titles.

Just give the shorter version of the agenda a clear label (e.g., "informal agenda") and provide a link to the formal agenda, and there should be no confusion. I'm looking forward to reading these "informal agendas" in the future.

I bet Council members also will find the "informal agenda" useful in their weekly Council packets. I wouldn't be surprised if Council members find themselves looking at the "informal agenda" first, to get a quick overview of the upcoming Council meeting.


Like this comment
Posted by rw
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 28, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Didn't Klein used to be the weekly's lawyer? If so, why is he participating on this item?


Like this comment
Posted by Carroll Harrington
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 29, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Thank you, City Council, for a thoughtful discussion with the best decision!


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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