Sometimes the best meetings are not recorded. So, listening to the discussion at the Yountville Town Council Workshop yesterday, more precisely, the item on Council Meeting Protocols has generated a few questions from me and should also be coming from our community as well. This item was scheduled for an hour and ran from 1:20 pm – 3:10 pm—quite a bit of conversation with much more to come.
At this meeting, I received TOWN OF YOUNTVILLE TOWN COUNCIL PROTOCOLS dated January 7, 2020, also titled a discussion draft for 3/17. Upon further review and reading the document, I saw the following item: 2.10 Electronic Communications Policy stated Section 2.10 Under Review by the Council Protocols Ad Hoc Committee. I was confused because I attended the Council meetings discussing regional boards and local Ad Hoc committees for our Council. I also received an updated list of all Boards Commissions and Ad Hocs from the Town. According to the 2023 Council Appointment Roster (updated February 21 of this year there) is no Council Protocols Ad Hoc Committee.
When asked about this at the meeting, Council member Trippe stated, “We didn’t call ourselves that.” The Vice Mayor said, “It was a mistake.” But there it is on the second page of the document, written in red, added by Council member Trippe.
Council member Trippe and Vice Mayor Knight took it upon themselves to make these changes. These changes were not asked for nor directed by the Council. No Town staff was involved. The town attorney was not involved. I can only assume that because this is an agendized item, they did not talk to any other Council members because that would be a direct violation of the Brown Act.
There was plenty of talk about transparency during the election and much discussion about increased community involvement. Not much of that is happening here regarding this issue from these two Council members now that they are on the dais.
There was also talk during the election about the need for civility. It appears our current Mayor was, and has been, wrongly attached to that conversation because so many of these changes are connected to the Mayor and how they run the Council meetings and complete day-to-day activities, and no one else.
So what is the issue? What is the problem that these two Council members are trying to correct? I understand that Council member Trippe is playing to her strengths, redlining the document, and making recommendations from a lawyer’s viewpoint. But when you start reading the details of the proposed changes, it will create a death-by-committee situation that will ensure the Council meetings go from the current 4 hours to 5 + hours.
The current Council has been in place for three months, and I have attended most of those meetings. Why is one of the newest members of the Council, who is understandably still learning the process and rightfully so, asking many questions, aggressively making changes to everything within three months of being seated? Why is one of the most experienced Council members not following the process?
I understand all this directly from my experience on this Council of the learning curve and the processes in place. I also understand that Council member Trippe made election promises.
After hearing their discussions yesterday, it became clear that the past is a big concern for some on the Council. But because you don’t understand the history or feel that you did not get the attention you deserved does not mean the protocols should be redlined and changed.
Items have been added that will 1. give the minority say over the majority, and 2. not allow the Mayor to run a meeting or operate daily for our community effectively. Both these Council members had to get ahead of the conversation, creating a log jam at their meeting. So many opportunities could have been taken to connect with the Town Manager, Town attorney, and possibly the Mayor.
All this conversation about communication and openness at the meeting concerning these changes, but Council member Trippe and the Vice Mayor didn’t communicate directly with those around them. They had to get the updates out for this meeting NOW. There was a heated exchange between the Mayor and Council member Trippe on the details of a meeting the Mayor attended at the Vets Home. There was some confusion and misunderstanding from Council member Trippe. The Council member continued to grill the Mayor as the Mayor described the actual meeting that took place. This misunderstanding was definitely the reason for singling out the Mayor and making many of the changes to the Protocols. It was obvious as the Council member contuined to explain herself and maintain her line of questioning.
But what became evident during this exchange at their meeting was that many of the perceptions and details were incorrect. Much of this issue was resolved through the conversation at the meeting. And so much more could have been decided and resolved had Council member Trippe chosen to talk to the Mayor directly instead of spending all this time redlining the current protocols.
I want the community to ask for a copy of this redlined document; there are 531 changes, and Council member Trippe said they “… didn’t think we were forging too far ahead.” Indeed! How will these suggestions make our community better? There are definite trust issues and a lack of clarity and clear intent. How will this generate more engagement by residents? How will this improve the Council as a policymaking body? Contact Council member Trippe (email@example.com) and the Vice Mayor (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get a copy of this document before this continues without you, our community members.
Be careful what you ask for now simply because it fits your narrative; it probably won’t work in two years when there is a different narrative.
I want to highlight just a few of the changes that draw concern for me.
3.5 Duties of Mayor and Vice Mayor: The Mayor shall preside at the meetings of the Council and perform such duties as may be approved by the Council or as provided by the Municipal Cod The Mayor may make or second any motion and present and discuss any matter as a member of the Council The Mayor does not possess any power of vet When the Mayor represents the Town while interacting with the business community, public agencies, or community leaders, the Mayor will share with the other Council Members any feedback or information received by the Mayor at the next Council meeting. The Mayor shall represent as Town policy or position only on those matters on which the Council has taken a position by resolution or other public action The Mayor will provide advance notice to the Council of scheduled meetings with public agencies and community leaders where Town interests and business is discussed by the Mayor. (FOCUSED SOLELY ON THE MAYOR AND NO OTHER COUNCIL MEMBERS)
“9.2.1 only two Council members to place an item on the age” a ”request of two council members” 9.2.1 only two Council members to place an item on the agenda ”request of two council members.” (MINORITY RULE)
9.2.2 agenda packet on Wednesday at 3 pm (currently Thursday)(NO STAFF WAS ASKED ABOUT THIS CHANGE)
Comments and Questions by Council Members 9.3.12 The Mayor directs proceedings during Town Council meetings. The Mayor and Council Members shall agree by majority vote on a fair and expeditious way of ensuring Town Council members have the opportunity to comment on an agenda item in an orderly fashion. All comments by Council Members must otherwise comply with these Protocols. (REMOVING THE ABILITY OF THE MAYOR TO CONDUCT A MEETING)
9.4.4 …Council, except for limited instances where brief clarification of an issue is raised by the public as otherwise provided in these protocols. (REMOVING THE ABILITY OF THE MAYOR TO CONDUCT A MEETING)
9.4.5 The Mayor may approve time extensions if necessary, provided, however, a majority of the Council may determine that a different process may be appropriate. (DEATH BY COMMITTEE)
9.7.1 Rules of Council Conduct Discussion Rules: The Mayor has the responsibility to control the debate and follow these Protocols; provided as described in 9.3.12, the Council and Mayor shall jointly determine an orderly and efficient way for Council Members to participate in any discussion. (DEATH BY COMMITTEE)
10.2 When the Mayor invites or is invited to meet elected officials or governmental staff to a meeting representing the Town, then the Full Council, Town Manager, and Town Clerk shall be informed in advance of the substance, time, and place of any meeting. Section 3.5 describes the duties of the Mayor with regard to less formal communications. (FOCUSED SOLELY ON THE MAYOR AND NO OTHER COUNCIL MEMBERS)
10.4 Processing of Mail Copies of correspondence addressed to the Mayor shall be provided to the Council. (FOCUSED SOLELY ON THE MAYOR AND NO OTHER COUNCIL MEMBERS)
4.4 Conflict of Interest General Rules Council Members shall refrain from using their positions to unduly influence the deliberations or decisions of Town commissions, boards or committees Council Members are permitted to participate in meetings of Town commissions, boards and committees in the same way that any member of the public may participate provided that Council Members explicitly state they are representing their personal views and not those of the Council. (NOT EVERYONE IS COMFORTABLE SPEAKING FREELY, THE PUBLIC NEEDS SPACE TO SPEAK)