City may cancel Coffees for rest of yearPublished 11:05am Tuesday, June 19, 2012
The Austin City Council may soon say ‘no’ to its monthly cup of joe.
The council could suspend Coffee with the Council until next year, following a 5-2 motion Monday night to make the suspension a resolution. Council members Marian Clennon and Janet Anderson opposed the motion. The council will vote on the public service’s fate at its July 2 meeting.
The move came after Council Member Brian McAlister expressed concerns city office candidates would use the informal monthly meeting to promote themselves.
“It’s just not an appropriate venue for that,” McAlister said, alluding to a case he had already seen by a candidate at the June 9 Coffee. Council Member Jeff Austin agreed.
“Candidates can show up and they can turn it into a stump speech,” he said.
The potential for campaigning wasn’t the only concern about Coffees. McAlister also questioned the usefulness of the meetings in general. He said there were a number of problems he noticed in meetings over the last few months.
Anderson said citizens who attend often stay fixed on issues handled by the school board or county board, over which the City Council would has no control. There are also questions about bike trails outside the city limits, another subject the council cannot address.
A number of council members were also concerned about one or two citizens dominating the hour-long meetings and limiting the amount other Austin residents could contribute.
“How do you stop that type of thing?” asked Mayor Tom Stiehm, adding that during the two Coffees he had attended, a single person could occupy about 2/3 of the time provided.
Clennon said she opposed the potential change to Coffees.
“I think if we set down the right rules, whoever’s moderating it will stop it,” she said, adding that the council had agreed to do the Coffees earlier in the year. The next two coffees have already been scheduled.
In general, McAlister said he didn’t find the Coffees worthwhile.
“It’s really not doing anything very useful,” he said.
The motion follows the first Coffee with the Council meeting to have minutes written up and points of follow-up for specific citizens’ questions highlighted. If passed, Coffees would not resume until Jan. 1, 2013.