Myles demands the return of the city council meeting schedule

June 22 – Falls City Council member Donta Myles says there are three numbers that bother him.

“Fourteen, 18 and 35,” Myles told a reporter. “That is the number of items on the agenda of the last three special sessions (of the Council). And reportedly we canceled (half of the previously scheduled 2022 City Council meetings) because there weren’t enough agenda items to consider. But these numbers put that (argument) aside.”

Later that evening, at a regularly scheduled city council meeting, Myles will ask his colleagues to restore the board’s original meeting schedule, which was approved at its annual organizational meeting in January. Myles is the sole sponsor of the decision to withdraw the original session schedule, so he has no illusions about his likely fate.

“It probably won’t go away,” he said, “but I’ll keep bringing it up. Special sessions are to be for time-sensitive and urgent matters. Not to attend to regular council and city business.”

He pointed to a presentation on a proposed bike access project at the council’s last special meeting as evidence that the process is not being used properly.

“Once again, it cuts out the public,” said Myles, who made his way from the rostrum to a council seat at council meetings.

In April, the council suddenly changed its longstanding practice of holding two sessions a month.

Over strong objections from Myles, the council voted 4-1 to halve its meeting schedule for 2022, with meetings to be reduced to once a month for the remainder of the year. The Council did not adjust its traditional August break.

At that meeting, Myles accused his colleagues of “muzzling” the public.

“This echoes the voice of the community to halve our meetings,” Myles said as he waved a copy of the new meeting schedule in the face of council leader John Spanbauer. “This is to allow the mayor to hold special sessions (where public speakers are not allowed). If the mayor has things that are important, he should bring them (to regular meetings).”

The decision to shorten the session schedule was supported by Spanbauer and council members Kenny Tompkins, Traci Bax and David Zajac. The decision offered no explanation for the timetable change.

“Because the mayor calls special meetings, many of our agendas (for regular meetings) are missing,” Spanbauer said.

The council leader has repeatedly suggested that residents should simply contact council members by phone or email, rather than speaking publicly at meetings.

Tomkins has downplayed the role of public participation at council meetings, saying he has never gotten a public speaker to change his vote on an issue in six years on council. Tomkins has already announced that he will not seek re-election to the council.

Spanbauer, who has announced he will step down from the council at the end of 2022, has repeatedly stressed that Mayor Robert Restaino has the right to call special sessions to conduct city business.

“The mayor doesn’t do anything wrong with special sessions,” Spanbauer said when voting on cutting the council’s regular schedule of meetings. “It’s his choice.”

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