The Metro Council is designed to be a deliberative body, and that should mean lots of public discourse among members who are faced with important decisions regarding city-parish business.
We believe that mission is usefully advanced by the council’s present use of committee meetings to vet many issues before they head to the full Metro Council.
Those committee meetings were eliminated by the Metro Council in 2009, but were reinstated in January 2010. Now, some members of the Metro Council want to eliminate the committee meetings again.
We believe eliminating the committee meetings would be a mistake.
The full Metro Council meets twice a month to make official votes affecting parish business. Between the semimonthly meetings, the council also holds committee meetings twice a month to vet agenda items before they reach the full council. The committee meetings include the finance and executive committee and the capital improvements committee.
Critics of the committee system have said public attendance at the committee meetings tends to be small. Metro Councilman Trae Welch said while committee meetings are supposed to be venues for council members to get information on agenda items earlier, he believes council members generally get such information on an individual basis from city-parish staff.
We aren’t surprised that public attendance at Metro Council committee meetings is small. These meetings often start in midafternoon, when many people are working. But the meetings are covered by the media, and they provide a useful forum for members of the public to see how key issues are being discussed prior the their arrival at the full Metro Council. Such advance discussions help assure the public that the Metro Council has deliberated adequately — and diligently sought public input — before voting on city-parish matters. Although council members might get important public policy information from city-parish staff, the public also needs easy and timely access to this information. Sharing this information in the public forum of the council’s committee meetings is a good exercise in transparency.
Recently, some members of the Metro Council took Mayor-President Kip Holden to task for not providing time for adequate input and study for his proposed capital improvements tax plan. Citing this and other concerns, the Metro Council voted not to put Holden’s proposal on the November ballot.
We agree that timely, careful consideration of city-parish issues is a must before these issues are decided. That’s why we support keeping the system of Metro Council committees in place.