To the Editor:
This is an open letter to City Manager Ott, City Attorney Shen, City Clerk Weisiger and Mayor Ashcraft.
We understand that the City Manager is responsible for the content of the agenda with the assistance of the City Attorney, City Clerk, and Mayor. We believe that the Clement Avenue/Tilden Way Redesign Project has been improperly placed on the consent calendar and should be moved to the regular agenda well in advance of the meeting so that it can be noticed to the public as soon as possible. We also believe that Section 4 of the City Council Rules of Order needs to be amended.
Objection to placement of item 5-G on Consent Calendar:
Section 4 states, “Agenda items listed under the Consent Calendar are considered routine and will be enacted, approved, or adopted by one motion without discussion.” There is nothing “routine” about a $1.1 million contract to provide engineering and consulting services for the project through the final planning and construction stages. On December 21, 2021, the City Council contracted for the initial engineering/consultation services to explore the feasibility of the project. Since that time, the project has been reviewed by various city agencies and public input has been received from people living in close proximity to the project. However, the City Council has not addressed the subject since then.
Now the Council is presented with a detailed plan for the project and is asked to approve an engineering and consultation contract which greenlights the project through its completion. This project is at a major island ingress and egress point for all classes of vehicular and pedestrian traffic directly adjacent to a major shopping center, a future housing project, and a planned additional park space, including a dog park. It includes a roundabout that will have to serve all of this traffic, including large vehicles such as trucks and buses, while still providing safe passage for bikes, pedestrians and passenger vehicles.
It is a misapplication of our Rules of Order to classify this as a consent item to be adopted without discussion. Any Councilmember may remove this item and require discussion/explanation. However, that does not provide a process equivalent to placement on the regular agenda.
As a regular agenda item, there would first be a Staff presentation followed by clarifying questions from Councilmembers and Staff response. Only after the public had learned more about the project from that process would public comment commence, with three minutes per speaker allowed if there are less than seven speakers and two minutes each otherwise.
The process for removal of an item from the consent calendar is not clearly spelled out in the Rules, other than providing that public comment will be limited to two minutes per speaker on all items combined. However, the Mayor’s practice has been to open public comment at the outset of the consent calendar, before asking for any Councilmember’s desire to remove an item. This forces the public to comment before hearing a Staff presentation or clarifying questions and answers. Thus, this process severely limits public comment that would otherwise been available on the regular agenda.
Based on the above, we urge the City Manager to immediately amend the agenda to place the Clement Avenue/Tilden Way Redesign Project on the regular agenda.
Amendment of Consent Calendar Rules:
Section 4 of the Rules of Order needs to include a definition of “routine” and a codification of the process to remove an item from the consent calendar. The definition of routine should be expressed from the point of view of the public, not the City Council. For example, current practice is for Council confirmation of public employee MOU’s to be listed on the consent calendar. This is a routine matter for the City Council because they have previously reviewed the MOU in closed sessions, but it is clearly not routine from the point of view of the public.
The consent calendar process should be added to section 4 and provide that a Councilmember’s request to remove an item from the consent calendar occur at the opening of the calendar, before public comment, and removes the matter to the regular agenda, thus reserving public comment on the item until after the Staff presentation and Councilmember/Staff Q and A.
Alameda Citizens Task Force Board of Directors
Editor’s note: On Wednesday, March 1, the City issued a revised agenda for the March 7 City Council meeting, removing item 5-G.
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