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EDITORIAL:Meetings shouldn't run late

May 12, 2007

City Council meetings shouldn't be marathons, testing the wills of all involved to keep their eyes open and to talk and think straight at 1:30 in the morning.

But in recent meetings, that seems to be what happens, prompting a much-needed discussion at Tuesday's meeting about ways to limit council sessions that continue until the wee hours of the morning.

Council meetings need to be a more reasonable duration in order to serve the best interests of the city.

Marathon sessions don't do anyone any good. Residents are forced to wait through mega-discussions about topics they may have no interest in. City executive staffers — the managers of departments — are forced to stay until the wee hours of the morning, only to go back to work early that same morning; and the council members themselves risk meltdowns in concentration, critical thinking on important issues, and the ability to question proposals. And along with the cost in time and energy of all involved is the cost in financial terms for overtime involved in keeping staffers on the clock.

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In a democratic form of government, everyone should be able to say their piece with adequate time to do so, but even in the public sphere, there is a point of diminishing returns.

On many nights in Burbank City Council Chambers, that point is reached.

Councilman Dave Golonski's suggestion of managing time by first looking at where it all goes at meetings was a good start.

There's no shortage of places to look.

As important as it is to recognize the good deeds of community groups and individuals, do the proclamation ceremonies, presentations and picture-taking time at the beginning of meetings have to be so drawn out?

With the first oral communications period following the ceremonial prelude, council business in the form of action, discussion and consent items doesn't get considered until an hour into the meeting. Yet, it's that very business that brings people to Council Chambers.

Oral communications is another piece of the meeting to look at.

Combining a 2- and a 4-minute oral communication period into one 5-minute window has potential. But officials should consider whether such a period would save time, or if it would have the opposite effect.

Many people use both oral communication periods. If they use the maximum amount of time in both, the 5-minute window could really work. If not, and most speakers use only the 2-minute period, would a 5-minute period add more time?

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