March 29, 2001

If there's one thing that can lengthen a city council meeting, it's a

discussion about what to do about the length of the city council meeting.

Well, the Costa Mesa City Council decided at a recent study session

that it would cut off the meetings as close to midnight as possible and

postpone unfinished business to a latter meeting.

However, at the last meeting, three of the five council members voted

to extend the meeting past midnight, violating their own pledge. The


meeting instead ended at 12:30 a.m.

Ironically, it's these close votes and this extra discussion that are

the reason the meetings run so long. And there's nothing wrong with that.

If it requires a lot more discussion to arrive at a consensus, so be it.

That's healthy.

There are also two new council members and more people showing up at

the meetings to partake in public comment. Those also extend the

meetings, but should not be discouraged.

But that doesn't solve the issue as to how to get through long meeting


Meetings are held two Mondays monthly and start at 6:30 p.m. That

means the latest meeting lasted about six hours. Now, that may be a trend

we'll continue at City Hall and that's not a bad thing. Getting out after

midnight, however, doesn't sound wise.

Being a city council member is a not a full-time job. Council members

often have full-time jobs that require them to wake up at the crack of

dawn and labor away for at least eight hours a day. That means by

midnight, they've been up for 18 hours or so.

Sorry, but the way we see it, people who have been awake for that

length of time shouldn't be making decisions that are critical to the

health of this town.

So, we offer some solutions.

Some city councils in Orange County meet earlier than 6:30. The Orange

City Council meets at 4:30 p.m. and the Irvine City Council meets at 5:30

p.m. Both also have speaker cards to be filled out before issues are

heard. Though neither council finishes by midnight every time, an earlier

starting time would make it easier for Costa Mesa to do so.

Or the council may want to consider adding another meeting. Holding

three meetings a month will spread the agenda out so that no meeting

lasts longer than five hours. That way, the public comment doesn't have

to be cut off as early because there's plenty of time for them.

It would also give the council a longer time to discuss and

contemplate an issue so that every council member has plenty of time to

make a decision.

But discussing what to do about the length of a City Council meeting

every night at 11 p.m. is not going to resolve the issue and instead will

only waste everyone's quality time.

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