City Manager James Capparelli’s handling of City Council agendas stirred up a debate that became heated at times with one council member likening it to babysitting.
Capparelli since February has been sitting on a policy, approved by a council committee but awaiting final approval by the full council, that sets rules by which residents can restrict access to their alleys. Council members Bettye Gavin and Sherri Reardon have voiced frustration over this, although others appear to care less.
That, however, was not the topic of discussion at the City Council Public Service Committee meeting Tuesday.
Committee Chairman Larry Hug wants Capparelli to end his recently established policy of putting decisions made by the Public Service Committee on hold for two weeks before sending them to the full council for final approval.
Hug suggested there are limits to the city manager’s authority to set council agendas.
“No, he doesn’t control us. He doesn’t babysit us,” Hug said at one point.
In a give-and-take with Capparelli at the Tuesday meeting, Hug said, “But you don’t make the decision. We do.”
“I do set the agenda,” Capparelli answered.
“That’s where the disconnect is,” Hug said. “You don’t make the policy. We do.”
The same can be said about the alley policy, which most on the council seem content to let Capparelli sit on. Principle is one thing. Politics is another. The mayor objects to the alley policy.
Hug wants to return to the previous practice by which the Public Service Committee met the day of or day before council meetings and approved items for full council vote later the same day or the next. The committee at times meets just an hour before the full council meeting.
“I think the citizens deserve an opportunity to review the comments of this committee prior to an hour later it going to the council,” Capparelli said.
Capparelli’s new rule sends those matters approved by the Public Service Committee to the next council meeting two weeks later for a vote. The same rule applies to the Public Safety and Finance committees, which also meet the day of council meetings.
Exceptions are made for urgent matters in which a delay of two weeks can create problems.
Hug argued that the two-week delay in itself is a problem for the Public Service Committee, which typically reviews contracts on roads, sewers and other public works projects after the bidding process is completed.
He contended the Capparelli rule slows down government, which people already think is too slow to act.
Capparelli argued the delay creates more transparency, which nettled Hug.
Arguing that contracts already are vetted publicly and professionally by staff through the bidding process, Hug told Capparelli, “It’s more than transparent. You’re just delaying it unnecessarily.”
Which perhaps is a virtue or a vice depending on the situation.