Council to continue informal talks before public meetings

Published 10:07 am Thursday, September 5, 2013

It’s time for a different sort of conversation with the council.

The Austin City Council has rescheduled Conversations with the Council, its monthly informal meetings with Austin residents, to take place a half hour before every council public meeting on the first and third Monday of the month.

Council members discussed the move during their work session Tuesday night. Council members hope the new meeting time will attract more residents and more issues to solve than  Saturday morning meetings.

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Mayor Tom Stiehm said the move would likely benefit residents as more council members would be able to meet with residents.

“Basically, this has been a commitment by not even half the council, that are really committed to this. You’ve got Judy [Enright] and Janet [Anderson], and that’s about it.”

Enright and Anderson have attended the most meetings since the council enacted the idea last year. Most council members have attended a meeting, though council member Steve King has never been to one.

King said the move would likely benefit residents and council members as attendance at the Saturday meetings has ebbed at times.

“I hope everybody’s needs get met with this,” King said.

More than 20 residents attended the first meeting in April 2012, and a solid dozen attended during subsequent meetings last year. The council suspended meetings in July 2012 after several complications with the meetings, including one resident’s attempt to stump for political office during the July meeting.

Council members restarted the meetings earlier this year, but resident participation has varied. Still, council members hope the move will encourage more participation among residents, since more council members will be on hand to talk with people.

“We want to make sure that that half hour before the council meeting is still an informal meeting,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the meetings will likely take place through the end of the year. Residents can approach council members starting at 5 p.m. every first and third Monday of the month at city hall on Fourth Street and Fourth Avenue Northeast.