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Our path to City Council decision making

Upon occasion, I’ll overhear the phrase, “Well, their minds were already made up,” after a City Council meeting decision has been made.

In a sense, that’s true. Our city government is a council-manager system of local government. We, your councilors, are volunteer leaders elected by the citizens of Happy Valley. City councils are responsible for hiring an effective city manager/administrator to oversee the delivery of public services. The city manager works in tandem with City Council, communicating any major matters that require consideration by the council. Those matters would include approving the city’s budget, passing new resolutions or amending existing city codes or policies, and the approval of any major projects or acquisitions, just to name a few.

There is a methodical process that takes place before any matter is presented to City Council. In a simplified explanation, it works this way: Matters that require the attention of the City Council can occur by way of a citizen request, by staff proposals or as a result of a situation or occurrence. City staff will examine these matters and rely on research, citizen input, comparable data from other jurisdictions and cost considerations before they compile a staff report for City Council.

At this point, staff is looking to City Council for the “go ahead” to continue to devote time to the project.

City Council may refer the matter to one of the city’s boards or committees for further evaluation.

Sometimes the matter is prioritized with other city projects, and therefore doesn’t receive immediate action due to a lack of funding. Most governments have dedicated funds (by law) requiring money to be spent on authorized projects only.

City Council meetings are public forums and serve at the time and place where citizens can address their elected officials in person, and on the record. If a citizen or group of citizens is opposed to a matter that has been put before City Council, they must also be prepared to present a complete and factual argument to counter the recommendations put forth by the city staff. When the City Council is provided with conflicting views, we do our best to make a fair decision for all. In any community, there are diverse opinions as to what constitutes an act that is “good for the city.”

That is where the individual citizen must step up. I hope you will always feel free to contact myself or any of your city councilors on matters that are important to you. Our goal is to be fair and effective leaders, working on your behalf.

Michael Morrow is a Happy Valley city councilor.



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