As you’re well aware, most of the decision-making of a local government takes place in council meetings. From passing ordinances to approving budgets, these meetings are essential for the functioning of a city. They also provide a great opportunity for citizens to get involved in their local government.
But the question remains, what makes an effective-yet-foundational meeting for city governments? In other words, what are the four elements of an effective city council meeting?
This article delves into the elements of city council meeting procedures and how you can leverage technology to improve the process. But first, what is a city council?
What is a City Council?
A city council is a legislative body that represents the citizens of a city. Among other tasks, it’s responsible for making laws, setting policies, and approving budgets. The council is made up of elected officials who are chosen by the citizens of the city.
So, why do citizens of a city need a legislative body? Well, it’s vital to have a governing body that can make decisions on behalf of the citizens. This is especially true when it comes to matters such as taxes, public safety, and infrastructure.
Other benefits of a functional city council include:
- It helps establish the city’s overall direction and goals.
- It ensures the city’s resources are used efficiently and effectively.
- It provides a platform for citizens to voice their opinions and concerns.
- It can foster a sense of community among citizens.
But before we proceed to the core elements, you may wonder what’s at stake if the city council meeting is subpar. For starters, it can lead to confusion and frustration among citizens, which can result in a lack of trust in the governing body and its decisions. Additionally, it can lead to delays in making important decisions and adversely affect the city’s progress. Finally, a poorly run meeting can lead to a lack of engagement from citizens.
Elements of an Effective City Council Meeting
Next, let’s look at the four elements that make up an effective meeting.
1. Clear Agenda and Objective
As the saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” This is especially true for city council meetings. To ensure the meeting runs smoothly, it’s essential to have a clear agenda and objective. For instance, everyone should know what to expect from the meeting agenda. It should be simple enough for a layperson to understand.
Here are a few essential items to include in the agenda:
- Meeting type: Every successful meeting should have a purpose. State whether it’s an informational meeting, a decision-making meeting, or a brainstorming session?
- Meeting objective: What do you intend or expect to achieve from the meeting? For instance, what information do you want to share if it’s an informational meeting?
- Meeting topics: This should include the topics to be discussed and the order in which they will be addressed.
- Time limits: It’s vital to set time limits for each topic so the meeting doesn’t go on for too long.
Having a moderator is essential for any successful city council meeting. The moderator’s role is to ensure the meeting runs smoothly and everyone gets an opportunity to voice their opinions. They should be impartial and unbiased and be able to keep the discussion on track. The moderator should also consider using a meeting management solution to run the meeting in an orderly and efficient manner.
3. Community Participation
Community participation or engagement is key for a successful meeting. To ensure participation, the city council should give all citizens the opportunity to voice their opinions.
For instance, you can use a platform with a public comments section for citizens to submit their questions and comments before the meeting. Additionally, the city council should encourage citizens to attend the meetings, either in-person or virtually.
4. Actionable Next Steps
Finally, it’s essential to have an action plan to outline next steps. While this may vary depending on the type of meeting and other factors in the agenda, a typical action plan should include the following:
- Tasks at hand: The city council should clearly define next steps that come out of the meeting.
- Deadlines: The city council should set deadlines for each task so everyone knows when to expect key deliverables.
- Responsible parties: It’s also essential to assign specific people to each task, so there’s accountability and responsibility.
How Technology Improves City Council Meetings
Technology helps to streamline meeting management by improving communication and simplifying processes. Moreover, it can improve the quality of the meeting by providing a platform for citizens to submit their questions and comments before, during, and after the meeting. Additionally, it helps keep track of tasks and deadlines to ensure accountability.
eScribe, a meeting management solution, is purpose-built to help local governments and committees reduce the administrative burdens of running meetings by automating time-consuming manual processes.
With eScribe, you can:
- Simplify the agenda-creation process
- Create an online platform for citizens to submit their questions and comments before the meeting
- Keep track of tasks and deadlines
- Assign responsible parties to each task
- Streamline the meeting process with automated notifications, reminders, etc.
Aside from our flexible and affordable pricing, the following features set eScribe apart from other meeting platforms:
- Participant portal: Accessible via web browsers or the eScribe app, the participant portal allows users to add comments, browse meeting agendas and reports, download materials for offline use, and more.
- Public comments. The public comments feature allows citizens to submit their questions and comments before, during, or after the meeting.
- Meeting manager. Streamlining and running in-person or virtual meetings has never been easier with the meeting manager. It allows users to create agendas, minutes, and action lists.
With eScribe, you can ensure that your city council meetings are effective and efficient. Our solution helps streamline the process and make it more efficient while providing a platform for citizens to contribute to the democratic process. We also have many useful resources to help you plan your next meeting. For instance, check out this recent blog on the tips and tricks for hosting a successful remote meeting.