In a move to make meetings more productive and the local government more transparent, the Ocoee City Commission made changes to how it conducts business during its meeting Tuesday, May 18.
During its May 4 meeting, the commission discussed the removal of the commissioner announcements portion of the agenda — which took place at the beginning of the meetings. The change happened following a meeting between Mayor Rusty Johnson and the city clerk’s staff that noticed announcements were being deferred to the comments from commissioners portion later in the meetings.
The move was a way to streamline the process during meetings, and it was one of several steps approved.
“For the past several months, I’ve felt that our meetings have grown more and more distant for the purpose for which we are here — to handle city business,” said Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen, who spearheaded the meeting. “I’ve reviewed the agenda outlines of other cities our size in our area and compared them to ours; I’m amazed when I see how much more efficient the meetings of other jurisdictions operate.”
Along with the change regarding the commissioners’ comments, Wilsen suggested cutting down the public comments from two sections to one. Before, the commission offered two opportunities for public comments — one during which the public was allowed to comment on any items on the agenda but not part of a public hearing, as well as a second general comments portion.
The public still will be allowed the chance to comment, but the changes will simplify the process. Wilsen also called for more decorum during this period.
“It’s ridiculous that we have multiple citizen comment periods — we should have one period with a three-minute time limit per speaker,” Wilsen said. “There should also be a rule of decorum that no one is allowed to speak from the audience. This is not a question-answer session — we should allow the citizens to make the comments … if we want to make comments as a commissioner, we can do that during our comment time.”
Wilsen also suggested condensing City Manager Robert Frank’s staff report into one portion at the start of the meeting and adding a post-meeting town hall for commissioners to address citizens via video.
Finally, regarding the consent agenda, Wilsen said too many items were being pulled off, despite that commissioners are given plenty of time to go over them before the meetings. Commissioner George Oliver — who often pulls multiple items to discuss — said the process of pulling items to ask questions is done more for residents than for himself, he said.
The changes will go into effect beginning with the commission’s next meeting Tuesday, June 15.