How to Run a City Council Meeting (Step-by-Step Guide)

  • By: Tara Astbury
  • April 25, 2023

Because city council meetings typically cover broad agendas and include participation or engagement from the public, employees, and officials, they require a great deal of preparation and organization. With many participants involved, it’s not surprising that a meeting management solution may be needed to give everyone a voice.

Read on to learn what city council meeting procedures you should follow to run a city council meeting and how technology improves the process. 

What is City Council?

A city council is a governing body of elected officials representing the citizens of a municipality. It is responsible for making decisions on behalf of the people, such as setting budgets, approving ordinances, and creating policies. The public usually elects the council members in local elections.

A city council proves crucial because:

  • It provides a platform for citizens to voice their opinions and concerns.
  • It allows the public to hold elected officials accountable for their actions.
  • It helps ensure the local government is run efficiently and effectively.
  • It helps ensure local citizens can access services and programs safely and hassle-free.

Council meetings must be effective and productive, as they are the primary platform for citizens to voice their opinions and concerns. A sub-par meeting will not only fail to meet the needs of the citizens, but it can also lead to a lack of trust in the local government.

How to Run a City Council Meeting

Running a city council meeting is no easy task. It requires careful planning and execution. Follow these step-by-step tips to ensure your city council meetings run flawlessly:

1. Capture Roll

At the start of the meeting, take attendance of all members present and absent. The roll call serves as a public account of who was in attendance, which proves critical when important votes are conducted.

2. Call Meeting to Order

Once the roll is captured, it’s time to call the meeting to order. You can simply introduce yourself and other council members, state the time and date, and declare that “the meeting will now come to order.” At this point, the chair should outline the agenda the meeting will follow.

3. Discuss Old Business

Once the agenda is set, it’s time to discuss old business. This is the part of the meeting where you review any unfinished or unresolved issues from previous meetings. It’s essential to ensure all members and attendees know what was discussed and agreed upon in the past so that they can make informed contributions and decisions during the current meeting.

4. Discuss New Business

Next, discuss real-time issues or topics that need to be addressed. Please note: new business can be planned (proposed or discussed by the mayor or council members before the meeting) or unplanned (presented by the attendees during the meeting).

5. Call for Public Participation

Once the new business is discussed, it’s time to call for public participation. Here, members of the public can voice their opinions and concerns about the topics being discussed. As a rule of thumb, all attendees should be given a chance to speak, and their comments should be considered before making any decisions.

6. Call Meeting Adjournment

Once all the topics have been discussed and decisions made, it’s time to call for a meeting adjournment. You can do this by simply declaring, “the meeting is now adjourned.” Any unfinished business at meeting adjournment carries over to the next city council meeting.

How Technology Improves City Council Meetings

Technology has revolutionized the way we conduct our meetings. With the help of technology, council members can now create, access, and share agendas in advance of the meeting, streamline communication between members, and even record minutes and action items for future reference.

One of the most life-changing tools used by state/local committees and councils is a meeting management solution like eScribe. It offers features like document sharing, electronic voting, and recording capabilities, making it easier for council members and attendees to stay organized and informed before, during, and after meetings. Additionally, eScribe comes with an affordable and flexible pricing model, ensuring even the smallest jurisdictions can enjoy its benefits.

eScribe’s tech-enabled platform even allows for easy collaboration and communication with remote-based council members. Check out our Helpful Tips for Remote Meetings brochure to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Should a City Council Meeting Agenda Include?

A city council meeting agenda should include the topics to be discussed, the order in which they will be discussed, and any relevant documents or materials that need to be reviewed. 

How Do You Start a City Council Meeting?

The chairperson should open the meeting by welcoming everyone, taking a roll call, and calling the meeting to order. They should then ask for a motion to approve the agenda, followed by a vote. Once approved, the chairperson can discuss each topic in order.