By Jack Mayne

The Des Moines City Council on a voice vote updated its rules of procedure at the Thursday (Nov. 21) regular meeting, stirring regular commentator and soon to be sworn-in councilmember J.C. Harris to protest the changes before the new Council meets in January.

Harris and Anthony Martinelli were elected in the November election, with Harris defeating incumbent Luisa Bangs and Martinelli defeating Councilmember Rob Back.

Rule changes too soon
Harris objected to the changes in the rules of procedure being approved before January, and indicated the changes would have fared differently when new members are in office.

Harris addressed the meeting Thursday night, as usual wearing his trademark red ball cap, and he focused on the new rules of procedure.

Among those rule changes is that a Councilmember can attend a meeting by telephone to once a year, from no limits now. The change would, in most circumstances, “disqualify a Councilmember from receiving compensation for the meeting pursuant” to the Des Moines city code.

Another change approved was to reduce discussion time allowed on motions from a maximum of ten minutes to a maximum of five minutes per Councilmember.

‘Changes unnecessary’
“It would have been better if the Council had considered resolution 19-113 after the first of the year. It would have been more courteous, for one thing, considering so much of it concerns stuff to do with a new Council which will be seated,” Harris said.

Harris added:

“It appear to me from the comments that were made from the dais – which by the way, that was the longest single discussion in over three years of meetings I have attended – and that’s telling. I feel like there was a message that was being sent and I will tell you that I hear your message.

“But to the resolution itself, it has 12 items and what I would say that about half of them are unnecessary, redundant, things that ironically could be handled simply by talking to one another as human beings and I was going to say, ‘hey please don’t vote for this thing’ but then I realized how much staff time has gone into this, dozens upon dozens of hours … and these are well paid people who work for the city, work hard, so that’s a heck of a lot of money, time that could have been spent, and I an not trying to be pious here, that could have been spent working on real problems for the residents and not this kind of Roberts Rule of Order stuff. That disturbs me. That such a lengthy discussion and such lengthy work product is being expended on things that are so trivial in the overall scope of the work that needs to be done in this city.

“So, I would just say that at least one of you vote this thing down just to show that you know what a waste it is. But pass it because I will tell you that the one thing I do not want is for the staff to spend one more minute of time on this thing. It is just not worth it.”

The Council approved the changes on a voice vote with no further discussion.