The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

‘Send three to Washington, D.C., anytime,’ says one observer; 6 instead of 9 makes for a meeting of reasonable length

In City Hall, Jerry McGrane, Justin Shields, Monica Vernon on January 14, 2009 at 9:05 pm

It might have been -11 degrees outside last night with a wind as stiff as a coffin.

But it was easy to endure what with the pleasant feeling leaving last night’s regular Wednesday evening council meeting.

It lasted only about two and half hours.

Most of the meetings soldier on more than an hour or an hour and half longer. With the meetings beginning at 5:30 p.m., council members and sometimes dozens of the city’s top staff members don’t get to their vehicles until 9:30 or 10 p.m. By then, most of the public is long gone.

One observer noted that three of the nine council members – Justin Shields, Monica Vernon and Jerry McGrane – were not on hand at last night’s meeting.

The three had gone to Washington, D.C., on a lobbying trip for the council and the city.

“Give me a lobbying trip to the nation’s capital every Wednesday,” the observer said.

The point: A council of six members means far less council discussion than a council of nine members. On many issues, every council member feels obliged to talk, which can make for a lot of profundity.

As the city’s Charter Commission was deciding back in 2005 how many members to recommend for a City Council, the number nine, though quite a change from the five members of the council at the time, seemed fine.

A visit at the time to the Davenport City Council, which had and has 11 members and who all were prone to speechifying back then, made nine seem particularly appealing.

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