How Many Motions Are Too Much?

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

Councillors had a chance Monday night to comment on the City Council Rules of Order, something that doesn’t greatly impact the public but does impact how the council conducts its business.

Specifically, Rule 30, defines how many motions a councillor can submit for each meeting.

Ward 3 Councillor Arthur Guinasso, head of the Rules and Order subcommittee, said as it stands now councillors are limited to five motions per meeting.

“I think that’s fair,” Guinasso said.

With that rule, each meeting could conceivably have 55 motions at least two times a month. Guinasso said that’s higher than average, but if a councillor really needs more motions attended to, than another councillor can co-sponsor the motion.

Yet another rule states that the councillor can only speak on three motions. Often times you will hear a councillor say the “motion speaks for itself,” and there is no discussion. The motion goes to a subcommittee or to the mayor’s office. Other motions not acted on just die at the end of the year.

Another consideration was what to do with motions backed up from times the council is on vacation.

But Councillor George Rotondo, who is notorious for submitting an abundance of motions, questioned this.

“This rule has only been on the books for the last four years,” he said. “The city does not go to sleep on vacations.”

Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky said he remembers the rule always being on the books and stated that some motions, like ones for filling a pothole, should be directed toward the cities 311 call system.

“Some of these motions shouldn’t be there,” Novoselsky said. “The work gets done faster going through 311. The 311 system should be used by all of us. Do use the council for little, small stuff.”

Ward 6 Councillor Charles Patch said that with past administrations the council received a letter on the status of the motion and he would like to see that happen again.

“I’d like a response on the motions,” he said.

Councillor Dan Rizzo said constituents should call 311 first. He views the motions at the council meeting as a way paper trail for an issue, not a pothole.

“I seldom put in more than three motions, I don’t think it’s necessary,” said Ward 5 Councillor John Powers. “If I want to get a job done I go to a department head or the mayor’s office if I’m not getting a response. Sometimes it can’t get done because there’s a monetary factor involved.”

“You don’t just get things done by motions,” said Councillor Anthony Zambuto.

Rotondo said he has a copy of a letter from the mayor’s office to the DPW head that states no outside requests can be requested of a department “or they could be reprimanded up to the point of being terminated.”

“I don’t use that route frequently because I don’t want to jeopardize someone’s job,” Rotondo said.

The council voted to accept the Rules of Order.

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