Lincoln City Councilman Peter Gilbert showed real leadership during the Jan. 2 council monthly workshop.
During the meeting’s council-initiated business, Gilbert asked that the council’s monthly workshops be moved two floors up at Lincoln City Hall.
We’re glad that he asked that the monthly workshops, also known as work session meetings, relocate from Lincoln City Hall’s first floor to the third-floor meeting room.
We’re even more pleased with Gilbert’s surprise recommendation because it’s a call for transparency.
On his own, Gilbert recommended moving the workshops to the third floor for videotaping access and to help audience members better hear what’s being said in the meeting as acoustics downstairs is challenging. No one that we’re aware of has publicly asked that the monthly workshops be changed until now.
Historically, Lincoln City Council has met at 6 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays each month in a room set up for videotaping. Those meetings can be seen on Wave Broadband Channel 18 and on the city’s website at lincolnca.gov/city-hall/city-council/council-meeting-agendas-minutes-video.
During the Jan. 28, 2016 City Council strategic planning session, Lincoln City Manager Matt Brower added a third “special” meeting to be held monthly. These special meetings (i.e. workshops) were dedicated “to vetting important city business” and to consolidate personnel, public utilities, streets and public safety committees into the monthly special meetings, according to Brower in 2016.
Most City Council members went along with the new meeting addition, although then-Mayor Spencer Short opposed the meetings. Six months later, Short’s view remained the same. He was quoted in The Lincoln News Messenger: “Decisions have been made at the work sessions when they were supposed to be informal. The study sessions should be more formal.”
There have been a handful of workshops in which City Council members have voted on significant issues affecting Lincoln residents. But the meetings were designated as a workshop/special meeting and decisions were not supposed to be made there.
The monthly workshop’s original purpose was to give the council an informal setting to openly discuss issues at length without the pressure of reaching a formal decision.
Just as importantly, without videotape access, residents who can’t attend the workshops don’t have knowledge to what was discussed.
Councilman Dan Karleskint agreed Jan. 2 with Gilbert about videotaping these meetings.
“What we discuss in the workshop meeting is at least as important as what we say in the meetings,” Karleskint said last week.
Since Gilbert spoke out Jan. 2 about changing the workshops, Mayor Stan Nader added his endorsement of changing the workshops. Better yet, Nader placed the topic on Friday’s public 2018 annual Council and Directors Strategic Planning Retreat agenda at Orchard Creek Ballroom, 965 Orchard Creek Lane.
Nader wrote this week in the retreat’s agenda package: “The original format was that the workshop would be informational only with council providing direction for items to be presented at regular bi-monthly meetings of the council for approval. Somehow that has morphed in a recent workshop into a decision point being requested of the council. I believe this is not displaying transparency and respect to our residents as the meetings are not videotaped and many residents are not available to attend the workshops in the 4 to 6 p.m. time frame.”
It’s about time that the five councilmen bring transparency to the workshops added two years ago.
Kudos to Gilbert for leading the way.