Palo Alto council looks to swear in new members earlier | February 1, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 1, 2013

Palo Alto council looks to swear in new members earlier

Two councilmen warn of 'legal and practical problems' under current system

by Gennady Sheyner

Seeking to solve what they call "legal and practical problems," two members of the Palo Alto City Council are urging their colleagues to be more expedient in swearing in newly elected members.

In a colleagues' memo released Wednesday, Councilmen Larry Klein and Greg Schmid have proposed changing the swear-in date for new council members from the first Monday in January — as is the current practice — to the first business day. The memo notes that when the mayor is a departing council member (as Yiaway Yeh was in 2012), his or her term expires on Dec. 31. If both the mayor and vice mayor are departing council members, there would be no one left to lead the council's "reorganizational meeting." At that meeting, which occurs on the first Monday of January, new members are sworn in and the new mayor and vice mayor are chosen.

Klein and Schmid note that by delaying the swearing-in ceremony until possibly as late as Jan. 8, the council runs "the risk of not having sufficient council members on hand to act if an emergency should arise."

They also note that the current practice of waiting until the first Monday of the month to swear in the new members results in a waste of time and delays the mayor's ability to make committee appointments. With the first Monday of January dedicated to the reorganization meeting and the third Monday being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the council leaves itself with only two (possibly three, when there are five Mondays) business meetings in the first month of the year.

"At the very time when enthusiasm is high — particularly in years when new people are joining the council — we in effect are dawdling," Klein and Schmid wrote. "Please join us in supporting this simple change in our schedule."

If adopted, the shift would be one of several procedural changes the council is pursuing this year. New Mayor Greg Scharff has emphasized ending meetings before 11 p.m. (a rarity in recent years) and has been urging colleagues, at times brusquely, to wrap up their comments if they stray off topic. The agenda also now includes the estimated time each item is expected to take.

The council is scheduled to discuss subjects such as meeting length and other procedural matters at its annual retreat, which will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Road.


Posted by Angie Taylor, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2013 at 10:35 am

Why doesn't the city council reorganize in December? San Mateo County cities all do it at their December meeting. Seems silly to wait until January.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 31, 2013 at 12:01 pm

What about the so-called "Emergency Council"? They are permanently assigned, and would be available if needed. Shouldn't Klein/Schmidt consider their existence as a part of the "emergency scenario"?