TEXARKANA, Ark. — During a meeting of the city Board of Directors on Monday, a try by Ward 2 Director Laney Harris to change meeting procedure failed to win support.
Harris proposed ordinance amendments that would make introducing meeting agenda items easier, among other changes. But after Mayor Allen Brown and Ward 5 Director Barbara Miner voiced their opposition, the measure was in effect tabled when no Board member moved for it to be read a second time.
Unless Harris removes it, a second reading of the proposal will be on the agenda for the Board's next meeting. Ordinances and resolutions must be read aloud — in practice almost always in summary, called "abbreviated form" — three times in public before the Board may vote on them. The Board often fast-tracks measures by voting to conduct all three readings during a single meeting.
Harris' proposal would remove a requirement for city staff approval of agenda items and shorten from 180 days to 30 days the wait time before the Board can reconsider an item on which it has voted. It would also allow the city manager and city clerk to extend the deadline for adding agenda items.
According to the current ordinance, adopted in 2017, items requested to be placed on a regular Board meeting's agenda must be filed with the city manager's office by 5 p.m. on the second Wednesday prior to the meeting. The city manager, the city attorney and government department heads then can comment on the proposed item.
By 5 p.m. on the Wednesday following the item's filing, the city manager must declare whether "staff recommends approval" or "staff does not recommend approval."
If approval is recommended, the item makes it onto the agenda. If not, the Board holds a workshop meeting within 30 days to discuss it. Thereafter, if two or more Board members give the item their "affirmative endorsement," it is placed on the agenda of the next regular meeting to be held at least a week after the workshop.
Harris' proposal would return the process to its pre-2017 form, doing away with the entire staff approval process and allowing any Board member to place any item on a meeting agenda as long they file it in time — or even if they do not, if the city manager and city clerk agree to extend the deadline.
Since the 2017 change, Harris has continually objected to needing the approval of unelected staffers or a second Board member to place items on the agenda.
"We're elected officials, and elected officials should have the desire to put something on the agenda. I don't see a whole lot of items that's going to be put on the agenda, but I think officials that's been elected, they should have the ability to put something on the agenda without someone else over their head telling them what they cannot do," he said.
Brown said the wording of the proposed changes was unclear and the current system provides needed structure for all involved.
"I can't support it tonight in its current form. And it would need some work, in my opinion, to clean it up to get it to something that we would offer. &hellip I hate to lose control and support something tonight where we would have basically no control over these meetings at some point in time, when now I think our meetings are run very professionally. We're taking care of the city's business. You have an opportunity now with our current procedures to put things on the agenda," he said.
Miner recalled past meetings lengthened by ceremonial presentations and Board members reading lengthy texts into the record.
"I personally am glad there are meetings are more businesslike and we take care of business but it's not overly long. This (the 2017 ordinance) has tightened it up considerably, and I'm in favor of keeping this policy as it is," Miner said.
In other business, the Board approved the purchase of three vehicles for the Bi-State Narcotics Task Force.
The type of vehicle is unspecified, as they will be used for undercover operations. Todd Shores McClarty Ford will provide them at a cost of almost $60,500 with a 36-month lease to purchase agreement. The Task Force is funded by federal Bureau of Justice Assistance and Drug Control Fund grants and buys new vehicles every three years.
The Board also approved a pair of rezoning requests. The first rezones a tract on Oak Hollow Lane and the second rezones land at Parker Lane and Mandeville Road, in both cases allowing residential development.
The Board's next meeting is scheduled for May 17.