Humboldt County Supervisors Virginia Bass and Steve Madrone will convene to discuss potential amendments to the Board of Supervisors’ rules, while county staff will look into procedures of the county Planning Commission, whose own rules came under scrutiny at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting.
While the county board follows Robert’s Rules of Order, a widely used set of procedures for running meetings, Madrone proposed creating a more step-by-step voting process for the board. In just over two months representing the 5th District, Madrone said he has often found himself in the minority.
Adding a “call to question” step, or a phase where the board could decide whether to even go to a vote, would create more room for dissent, Madrone said.
But 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn, the board chair, said Madrone’s comments are some of the first “complaints” he has heard since he started at his seat in 2012.
Typically in the past, the board has followed Robert’s Rules informally. Supervisors discuss an agenda item, hear from the public and discuss some more. They make motions and vote on them, but the vote most often takes place when the supervisors have run out of things to say, not when they’ve formally decided to decide.
Bohn said the system makes board discussions more accessible and approachable. If the board were to alienate people by adding another set of rules, he said, it could turn people off from coming to the meetings.
“At the end of the day, we’re trying to get equity and serve the people we serve,” Bohn said. “Everything seems to be working.”
Madrone and 3rd District Supervisor Mike Wilson agreed that the Planning Commission’s rules need a harder look. At past meetings, members of the public have accused the commission of skipping past hearing from the public, or generally failing to be transparent in its decision-making.
“The Planning Commission has not had rules and it’s quite obvious that they’ve been winging things,” said Kent Sawatzky, one of the county’s most frequent public commenters.
One public speaker suggested the commission has no rules at all — it does, county administrative officer Amy Nilsen pointed out.
But Wilson insisted county staff propose revisions to the commission’s procedures, and additionally motioned to put Madrone and Bass in an ad hoc committee to suggest rule amendments for the board itself. Some rules, including one that limits presentation times to five minutes, aren’t really followed, Wilson said.
“I have not seen someone give us a presentation that’s limited to five minutes,” he said.
The supervisors voted unanimously to pass both motions.
Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504.