Council to end the discussions?

Published 10:42 am Tuesday, July 16, 2013

City officials mull ending monthly talks with public

It’s getting tougher to have any Conversations with the Council.

The Austin City Council discussed whether to cut back or end the monthly informal public meetings as few council members volunteered to attend the upcoming meeting at 10:30 a.m. this Saturday at the Austin Public Library.

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Several council members previously expressed concerns over how effective the meetings are, but city officials have touted the success of recent meetings as more than a dozen residents are stepping forward to hear about issues. Only a few council members regularly volunteer to attend the meetings, while some council members, including Steve King, have yet to attend a meeting this year.

No council member volunteered to attend this Saturday’s meeting, as many said they had prior commitments or needed to spend time with family. Council Members Jeff Austin and Janet Anderson were not in attendance at the work session.

King has been consistently skeptical of the informal meetings in recent months and brought up his concerns at a work session Monday night.

“Maybe we need to schedule it on certain occasions,” he told the council. “Don’t schedule it every month.

Council Member Judy Enright has attended every 2013 meeting and worked with fellow Council Member Janet Anderson to restart the meetings in March, after the council suspended Conversations with the Council in July 2012 because of a lack of attendance and unconstructive feedback from residents who did attend.

Though more people have come to meetings, council members are seeing the same people with the same issues come each month, which council members and city staff are already addressing.

King said the council could be just as effective at listening to residents’ concerns at regular council meetings and shouldn’t have to give up time with their families on the weekends for meetings with little productivity.

“There is no benefit,” he told the council.

While the council made no plans to change the format for “Conversations with the Council” during its work session, council members are hoping more residents attend to express problems the city isn’t already working on.

Enright ultimately volunteered to attend the meeting this weekend.