Council Meeting Agendas
The basic authority for establishing an agenda for city council meetings rests with the city council under its authority to adopt rules of procedure. The form of an agenda may be prescribed by ordinance or resolution, by city council rules, or simply by informal custom and practice. In many cities preparation of the agenda is delegated to the mayor, city clerk and/or city administrator, and this system seems to work satisfactorily in most cases. However, it would be possible for the council to establish formal rules and regulations for the preparation of the agenda and to indicate in those rules who may place items on the agenda and how they are to be placed on the agenda.
Perhaps one of the most crucial items in providing for orderly meetings is a well-organized and well-prepared agenda. A systematic order of business may be the difference between haphazard wrangling and a well-run, well-timed meeting. The agenda must be handled so that councilmembers are given adequate information on items to be considered. They should get that information far enough in advance to give it appropriate study. State law requires each city and town to establish a procedure for notifying the public of the agenda for forthcoming council meetings (First Class Cities: RCW 35.22.288; Second Class Cities: RCW 35.23.221; Towns: RCW 35.27.300; Optional Municipal Code Cities: RCW 35A.12.160). This advance notice to the public can be accomplished by posting the preliminary agenda in an accessible location. Items on the agenda should be prioritized and organized as efficiently as possible, allocating adequate time to major issues and minimizing time spent on routine, trivial or non-controversial issues.
While it is not mandatory at a city council meeting, opportunity is typically provided for appropriate public participation. Citizens can be given the opportunity to address the council on other subjects of interest. Occasionally city councils are criticized for limiting the time allotted for accepting public comments during a council meeting but it should be remembered that the council meeting is a business meeting to conduct the city’s business and not a public forum. Limiting the public comment period is not a violation of the First Amendment.
This is not to be confused with a public hearing in which formal public comment is received on a particular issue.
An important consideration in making the agenda manageable is keeping things off of it that don't belong there. The formal council agenda is the place for formal actions on the part of the governing body. In general, every regular meeting agenda item should include an instrument for council action. Items that are solely for the information and advice of the council should be provided outside the formal agenda process.
When the agenda process is well-managed, it provides for a smooth flow of information to the governing body and of policy decisions from them. This makes the entire operation of government run more smoothly and saves a great deal of valuable time.
Typical Council Meeting Agenda/Order of Business
There is no required format or particular order for the council meeting agenda. However, a typical agenda for a city council meeting looks like this:
- Call to Order
- Roll Call/Pledge of Allegiance
- Approval of Agenda/Minutes
- Citizen Comments
- Consent Agenda
- Ordinances and Resolutions
- Public Hearings
- Unfinished Business
- New Business
- Council Action/Discussion
- Committee Reports
- Executive Session
The consent agenda is a tool used to streamline council meeting procedures by collecting routine, non-controversial items into a group whereby all are passed with a single motion and vote. In some cities, items to be placed on each consent agenda are selected at a weekly city department head's meeting. In others, a special agenda committee chooses the consent items. Commonly, no debate is allowed on items included in the consent agenda.
Consent items may be read by title only in the body of a single consent agenda resolution. However, any councilmember can have an item removed from the consent agenda for separate consideration. In addition, cities may allow any person attending the regular council meeting to request that an item be removed from the consent agenda, read completely, and voted on independently. The remainder of the consent agenda can be voted on, omitting the challenged items. Setting up a consent agenda system usually requires preliminary action by the council in the form of adopting an ordinance or resolution.
Sample Council Rules of Procedure for Agenda Preparation
The following council rules of procedure contain sample provisions relating to agenda preparation:
Sample Meeting Agendas
Here are some links to webpages containing sample city council meeting agendas: