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By Breeana Greenberg
The upcoming calendar year is going to be the “worst” that the San Clemente City Council will ever see, according to Mayor Kathy Ward.
“This next year is going to be something else with what we’re about to do,” Ward said during the council’s meeting on Tuesday night, Nov. 2. “Yes, it’s going to be the worst year that you have ever seen. And our council meetings are going to suffer.”
Ward’s stark warning came after a debate over her motion to amend the council’s agenda-setting policies, increasing the threshold to agendize an item for discussion from two supporting members to three.
In a 4-1 decision, with Ward opposed, the council voted Tuesday night to maintain the policy as is.
The Council Operating Procedures had previously been amended in January 2020, when Councilmember Laura Ferguson proposed, among other amendments, a reduction to the number of votes required to place an item on an agenda from three to two. That motion passed in a 3-0 vote, with Ward and former Councilmember Chris Hamm absent.
Ward argued on Tuesday night that the minority members’ ability to have items brought to council was getting abused.
“When we’re elected, we are elected all together by the people and we should never give up how we have been elected, and in doing that to the minority, we’re allowing the minority to run the meeting,” Ward said. “And that that should never happen.”
In response, Councilmember Chris Duncan said that the procedures didn’t need to be amended as long as it’s not seriously abused. He added that if meetings start going on until 1 in the morning, then council may want to revisit the procedural policies.
Duncan further noted that that members who may not have majority support when they bring up an item should still be able to put it on the agenda.
“I’ve been somewhat disappointed with some of the agenda items,” Duncan said. “I still think those folks (the minority) deserve the right to put them on there. And the public gets to be the judge about whether they like someone going on and on about something that may not be germane to what the city is doing.”
Ward argued that the number of votes required to place an item on the agenda should be raised in order to improve efficiency. She also commented that she’s seen meetings run inefficiently for the past two years, accusing Ferguson of agendizing too much.
“When something is on the agenda, it allows someone like Councilmember Ferguson to go off into Never Never Land and talk about whatever she wants to talk about because it’s agendized,” Ward said.
Ferguson commented that oftentimes items that members want to bring to council come from their constituents.
“We’re all duly elected, you know, equally,” Ferguson said. “We’re up here, we’re equals, and we represent our citizenry. And why shouldn’t all of our, each of our groups of constituents have items agendized when their member wants those items agendized? It’s the voice of the people.”
Councilmember Steve Knoblock felt confident that, contrary to Ward’s warning that council would see dysfunctional meetings, continuing to allow minority members the power to agendize items would bolster discussions.
“I’m going to vote aye and say that I think this next year, with robust discussion from our elected officials, will probably be one of our best years,” Knoblock said.
Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org