Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Consent Agendas - a bad idea?

Is the use of Consent Agendas by public bodies a good idea? or a bad one?

The Woodstock City Council uses them, and the Woodstock District 200 School Board uses them.

A "Consent Agenda" is a listing (an Agenda) of items to be voted on by the public body (City Council, School Board, etc.). It can be as simple as one vote to approve all of the items on the Consent Agenda - without any discussion whatsoever.

The following note is included with the School Board agenda for its meetings: "NOTE: Items under the consent agenda are considered routine and are enacted under one motion. There is no separate discussion of these items prior to the Board vote unless a Board member requests that an item be removed from the agenda for separate action."

On tonight's Consent Agenda are, among other items, "routine personnel matters" and "Approval of Settlement Agreement with CSI." What is CSI? A settlement? What kind of settlement? And for how much?

The Note with the Consent Agenda for the Woodstock City Council is a little broader: "NOTE: Items under the consent calendar are acted upon in a single motion. There is no separate discussion of these items prior to the Council vote unless: 1) a Council Member requests that an item be removed from the calendar for separate action, or 2) a citizen requests that an item be removed and this request is, in turn, proposed by a member of the City Council for separate action."

Note the difference between the procedure at the School Board meeting and at the City Council. Apparently, an attendee at a School Board meeting cannot request an item be pulled for discussion.

When Consent Agendas are widely used, the public doesn't have a clue what is going on. Council members and Board members receive "packets" before the meeting and have an opportunity (not that they would ever have or take time to read every word in the packets) to become familiar with the item on which they will vote. But the public? If you don't go to the public library or to City Hall or to the school district office and read the packet yourself, you won't know whether some item is "routine" or not.

For example, a "paid advertisement" in The Woodstock Independent last week (October 7, 2009) revealed that compensation for D200 staff went up 25% over the past five years. Were school board votes on compensation raises considered "routine matters" in Consent Agendas?

According to that "paid advertisement" more than 60 employees earn over $90,000/year and a "goodly" number of those earn more than $110,000. And look at just the cost of health insurance: the employee pays only $3,515 for annual family health insurance coverage costing $17,391! And the employee pays only $2,126 for health insurance company for his(her) own coverage and spouse's coverage that costs $11,836!

What corporation in America still pays such a large proportion of the premium for health insurance???

By the way, the "paid advertisement" in The Woodstock Independent wasn't an advertisement. It was, in effect, a guest column that was paid for by Dino Gius. Who is Dino Gius?

1 comment:

The Madd Bulldog said...

I will go on record as stating I am NOT Dino Gius. I have used the names Rolf Crozier and Silvio Fontana, but only during my adult film career years ago. DOH!