City Council Agenda Definitions
Below are definitions of commonly used terms on City Council meeting agendas:
Appearances is the time is set aside for members of the audience to speak to the City Council about any issue during a council meeting. The ground rules are:
- Please (1) speak audibly into the podium microphone, (2) state your name and address for the record, and (3) limit your comments to three minutes.
- Traditionally, the Council does not respond to comments made at the meeting, but will follow up, or have staff follow up, with the speaker if needed.
- Comments should be addressed to the entire Council, not to individual Councilmembers, staff members, or the audience.
- Audience members should refrain from applause or disapproval of individuals’ comments.
- Any person who makes personal, impertinent, or slanderous remarks, or who becomes boisterous, threatening, or personally abusive while addressing the Council, may be requested to leave the meeting.
- The Council cannot accept comments on any campaign-related matters (elections for individual offices or ballot propositions) except under specific circumstances where consideration of a ballot measure is on the Council agenda (RCW 42.17A.555). Click here for further explanation.
This is a means to streamline Council meeting procedures by collecting the routine, non-controversial items into a group whereby all are passes with a single motion and vote. Each City Council agenda includes, but is not limited by this reference:
If separate discussion of any Consent Calendar item is desired, that item may be removed from the Consent Calendar at the request of any Councilmember. At the conclusion of passage of the Consent Calendar, those items removed shall be discussed and acted upon before proceeding to the next item of business or shall be set to a later position on the agenda of that meeting.
- final approval of leases and contracts,
- final acceptance of grants, deeds or easements,
- setting dates for public hearings,
- approval of change orders,
- payable and payroll sheets, and
- other routine items as the City Manager may deem appropriate.
In case of an emergency or the likelihood of an emergency involving injury or damage to persons or property, the special meeting notice may be dispensed with when the time requirements would make notice impractical and increase the likelihood of such injury or damage. RCW 42.30.080. The special meeting notice should be sent to “The Mercer Island Reporter” and placed in the lobby of the building where the meeting is usually held.
When a special meeting is called for a date and time that makes it impossible to send a written notice by mail or facsimile and afford a 24-hour notice, the people on the special meeting list who were not in attendance when the special meeting was announced should be called. Notes should be kept of the names of the people called and the time and date of the call.
Executive Sessions are held to discuss personnel, property or litigation matters and are limited to Council members and any additional persons deemed appropriate by the presiding officer. Prior to convening the Executive Session the Mayor or chairperson must announce the purpose and approximate length of the Executive Session. Discussions are not recorded or reported and actions must be announced in open session.
Ordinances are legislative acts of local laws. They are the most permanently and binding form of Council action and may be changed or repealed only by a subsequent ordinance. Ordinances normally become effective five days after they are published in the City's official newspaper. An ordinance will generally prescribe permanent rules of conduct or government.
The planning schedule is a quarterly calendar that reflects upcoming Council meetings and proposed items of discussion.
The purpose of a proclamation is to recognize the efforts of a particular group or increase awareness of an activity. The Mayor determines whether to issue a proclamation. They are written by staff and usually announced at a City Council meeting; however, the Mayor can issue a proclamation without Council approval.
Public Hearings are public meetings. They are a formal opportunity for citizens to give their views for consideration in the decision-making process. Public Hearings can be held either in regular session or at a special meeting after proper notice. Public Hearings provide the Council with views on either side of issues.
Resolutions act as less solemn or formal rules and generally are simply an expression of the opinion of the Council.
Any meeting that it is not held at the regular time, place or location is a Special Meeting. Written notice of the time and place of a Special Meeting must be received at least 24 hours in advance by the members of the body and the news media. Special Meetings are open to the public.
Special meetings are also public meetings. Written notification of special meetings can be dispensed with when there is an emergency. The notice shall contain the date, time and place of the meeting, as well as subject matter to be considered. The description of the business is very important because the body is precluded from making any final disposition of matter not included in the published notice of the business to be transacted.
These work sessions are generally held by the City Council on the first Monday of the month prior to its regular meeting. The study sessions begin at 6:00 pm, last about 60 minutes, and may be held at a site other than City Hall. The Council takes no formal action during this time.