Effective Local Government

Don’t attack or criticize the staff in public

By Ann Macfarlane / November 17, 2022 / Comments Off on Don’t attack or criticize the staff in public

Several local government officials have recently described to us situations where elected officials are criticizing and attacking the staff during public meetings. This must not happen. Councilmembers and board members must respect the role of the administrative head of the organization (mayor, city manager, general manager, etc.). They may not criticize the staff in public.…

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Ann’s podcast interview, “Running Amazing Council Meetings,” with Jim Hunt

By Ann Macfarlane / September 7, 2022 / Comments Off on Ann’s podcast interview, “Running Amazing Council Meetings,” with Jim Hunt

I had the pleasure this summer of a lively conversation with Jim Hunt, host of “Amazing Cities and Towns” podcast. Jim is a former mayor and councilmember in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and past president of the National League of Cities. He brought a candid eye,  wide experience, and sharp insights to our discussion. We talked…

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Can the mayor take part in discussion?

By Ann Macfarlane / April 22, 2022 / Comments Off on Can the mayor take part in discussion?

What is the role of the mayor in discussion at city council meetings? The answer to this question is a bit subtle. Download PDF In a large council, mayor does not take part in discussion Robert’s Rules of Order says that in a large group, the chair of the meeting does not take part in…

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Lost the vote? Don’t sabotage the council’s action

By Ann Macfarlane / April 20, 2021 /

We’ve had inquiries recently about elected officials who lost a vote, and then actively worked against the outcome. This amounts to trying to sabotage the council. It is wrong, wrong, wrong. Download PDF The majority rules General Henry Martyn Robert, the original author of Robert’s Rules of Order, expresses it this way: The great lesson…

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Are your meetings seven hours long?

By Ann Macfarlane / February 23, 2021 / Comments Off on Are your meetings seven hours long?

  This strange time of COVID-19 is producing some strange situations. We hear reports of local government meetings lasting far into the night, in some cases taking as long as 7 hours. (See this article about San Jose California). Does this happen to you? Are your meetings too long? If yes, what can be done…

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When public pressure is intense, what can you do?

By Ann Macfarlane / January 21, 2021 /

At a recent workshop, a director from a school board split by pandemic-related decisions asked me what board members can do in the face of intense public pressure. These are tough times for local non-partisan government bodies, for sure. Here are some thoughts about what can be done. Download PDF Listen to your constituents, while…

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When should the clerk speak up?

By Ann Macfarlane / September 10, 2020 /

The clerk of a local government meeting or the secretary on a nonprofit board has a high calling. Under Robert’s Rules, two persons must be present for a valid meeting: the chair and the secretary. They cannot be the same person, and state law often specifies this as well. The clerk or secretary keeps the…

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When First Amendment Rights and Public Meetings Clash

By Ann Macfarlane / August 7, 2020 /

MRSC has graciously given permission for us to republish this helpful article. MRSC is a private nonprofit organization, formerly known as “Municipal Resources and Service Center,” serving local governments in Washington State.  Read more of their articles here. Jurassic Parliament articles on this topic are listed below. Most governing bodies of cities, towns, counties, and…

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No debate at all—legitimate, but unwise

By Ann Macfarlane / July 6, 2020 / Comments Off on No debate at all—legitimate, but unwise

  A citizen rang me up in some concern about the way his city council had processed a big motion the night before. The land-use proposal was introduced and seconded, a member was recognized to debate, and that member immediately said, “I call the question.” Five of the seven members on the council voted in…

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