BLOOMINGTON — A proposal to strip Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner of the power to directly place items on City Council meeting agendas was set aside during a council discussion Monday that shifted toward ways to keep the council on track and working as a team.
"This was a very productive conversation. I think this represents a new day for discussion for the council moving forward," said Renner at the council's nonvoting work session. "I am very pleasantly surprised and I'm very optimistic for the future of our city."
Renner also apologized to his council colleagues for causing any concerns that may have led Ward 2 Alderman David Sage and five other aldermen to seek clarification of the process for elected officials placing items on the council meeting agendas.
Prior to the meeting, Sage suggested changing the city code to require the mayor to first obtain majority support of five aldermen before placing an item on the agenda.
Currently, items can be placed on a council meeting agenda by the mayor, city manager or a majority of the council.
Instead, Sage asked council members Monday night to provide feedback by Dec. 1 to city attorney Jeff Jurgens on how the council could adopt "three simple steps we can take to help our team — the council and (city) staff — perform at a higher level."
The steps involve creating a process for carrying out specific action plans adopted by a majority of the council, developing a process to handle any changes or amendments to those plans, and assuring the council sticks to decisions made by a majority of the council, said Sage. He offers no specifics beyond these broad principles.
"In order (to assure) administration, department heads and city staff ... are working on the right priority, in the right order, at the right time, majority council decisions must stand," Sage said. "It will help us maximize the value of the taxpayers' dollars that we spend. It will help us maximize the value of staff time spent doing city work."
Examples discussed included starting and then dropping downtown hotel plans and looking at moving Bloomington Public Library after deciding to expand it at its current site.
But Sage didn't take the proposed restriction on the mayor's power totally off the table.
"If there are some aldermen who want to offer that as part of their feedback that we're going to give to our city attorney, they have the opportunity to do that," said Sage.
The matter will be brought back to the council Dec. 11 for further discussion on feedback provided to Jurgens.
"I think this is a great opportunity for us to start to work together," said Renner. "And I also apologize to my colleagues who felt a need to bring this up ... because of not just miscommunication, but poor communication on my part that may have left people to have concerns about this."
"I will do a better job of trying to discuss with all of you the things I put on the agenda or (interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen) and I put on the agenda," said Renner.
Ward 7 Alderman Scott Black said some of his constituents are concerned that requiring the consent of five aldermen to place an item on the agenda violates the Open Meetings Act.
"People were uncomfortable with the idea that council members were deciding an action before a public vote," said Black.
Ward 4 Alderman Amelia Buragas feared requiring majority support of the council for items to be placed on the council's agendas would stifle minority viewpoints.
"I would be very concerned about adopting policies or procedures that restrict our ability to put ideas out into the public forum," said Buragas. "(It) could create an impression that we can't discuss ideas. If an idea for some reason becomes infeasible ... and a new opportunity arises, that we wouldn't deviate from that."