Will the six new people who join the 13-member Memphis City Council on Jan. 1 be like all the other new council members in recent decades and fall under the false belief that it is commonplace for public bodies to reconsider items up to the point that the minutes of a meeting are approved?
The actions of all other public bodies in Tennessee — and perhaps all those in the rest of the United States — are final at the ends of meetings at which the actions are taken.
An effort to contact incumbents and candidates in the four council races where I had a vote in the Oct. 3 city election by email or Facebook message and communicate with them about the council practice did not produce any positive results.
Only two of the six or seven people that I sent messages to responded.
One of them was the incumbent in a district race. He didn’t seem to understand what I was talking about. He asked for my email address so he could have the council’s parliamentarian and legal representative respond to me. I was not contacted by either of them or anyone else.
As a result, I did not vote for this incumbent although I had been planning to.
The other response was from a candidate who said he would have to check into it and get back in touch with me. I never heard back.
All the council would have to do to bring the body in line with all or virtually all other public bodies across the country would be to adopt the procedures of Robert’s Rules of Order for reconsidering items.
Under Robert’s, a motion to reconsider must be made by a member on the prevailing side in the initial vote and the motion must be made before the end of the meeting in which the action is taken.
It seems to me that citizens should have a right to know at the end of a meeting in which something is dealt with on third and final reading or a resolution is adopted that the action is final unless it is rescinded at some point in the future.
The council’s current practice reflects that council members are not interested in dealing fairly with the public. New council members through the years have joined in without taking the time to review whether the council’s practice is a common one.
If you know a council member, new or returning, ask him or her to justify the procedure. Or at least ask if he or she can identify any other body that uses this practice.