Flint, MI– Since November of last year, two Flint City Council members have worked to revise the council’s rules in an attempt to make the meetings run more smoothly.
While fixing the council rules is something every member has supported (Council President Eric Mays often calls the current rules the “goofy rules”), the special meeting to discuss the revisions on April 4 was cut short due to a lack of quorum.
After listening to comments from the public, the council spent only 20 minutes going over the revisions made by Council Vice President Allie Herkenroder and Councilwoman Judy Priestley before losing the minimum number of members required to conduct a meeting.
“We’re used to it,” Mays said after Councilman Quincy Murphy excused himself in the midst of a disagreement with the president, which broke the quorum. “The business of the city of Flint is in disarray with these new council folks. It’s egregious.”
On Nov. 15, 2021, less than two weeks after getting elected, Herkenroder and Priestley formed an ad hoc committee to work on the rules, which have long been a source of conflict on the council. Holding weekly meetings with each other and the city’s legal department, it didn’t take long for the two of them to bring their revisions to the rest of the council.
“How in the world did you do that so quickly? We had four years, and we never did such a thing,” Councilwoman Eva Worthing said during a meeting on Dec. 13. “I’m excited … and I really do hope that it just allows for us to have a seamless meeting.”
But the resolution to set a public hearing on the revisions to the rules was postponed by the council for months after many members said they wanted to hold a special meeting first to review and discuss the changes.
“That’s the purpose of committee, and that’s why we are here,” Herkenroder said during a meeting on March 9. “So the fact that some of my colleagues say that they hadn’t had the chance to review them when they’ve been sent out to everyone’s email since December is, quite frankly, troubling.”
Still, the council decided to hold a special meeting dedicated to discussing their revisions on April 4.
Mays, Herkenroder, Priestley, Murphy, Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter, and Councilwoman Tonya Burns were the only members in attendance. Councilwoman Ladel Lewis, Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer, and Councilwoman Eva Worthing were absent.
Burns left the meeting early to attend a neighborhood meeting in her ward, leaving the council with exactly five members present, the minimum required for a meeting.
“There has been several changes, some reordering, some eliminating of duplications, some clarifications,” Priestley said of the 19 pages of revised rules, which can be found here.
While Herkenroder suggested the council focus on the rules that had been changed, or amendments her colleagues were interested in making, Mays insisted on going line by line, starting with the index at the beginning.
Only a few revisions were discussed before the council lost the quorum.
Mays objected to a revision changing “point of information,” to “request for information.”
“So I’m old. And I’m used to saying ‘point of information,’ and I’m going to object to that change because everybody else has been saying ‘point of information,'” Mays said.
Mays also objected to a rule which stated that the council used the 11th edition of Robert’s Rules of Order, stating that he uses the 12th edition.
Another rule was simplified to make it less wordy, Herkenroder said, but Mays objected to that, too.
“Well, me myself, I like language that was stretched out,” Mays said.
Murphy said he would like to amend the rule about recessing council meetings to ensure that recessed meetings start back up at the exact time the council decides.
“A lot of times when we recess a meeting, we say 10 minutes, it’d be 25 minutes later before we actually start the meeting,” Murphy said. He said he would also like to combine some of the existing committees, and then add committees for public safety and health.
As he spoke about his proposed amendments, Murphy said he thought going through the revisions line by line would take too much time, and with only five members present he didn’t think they’d be successful in approving any changes as a body.
Mays told him that by talking about it, Murphy had wasted time.
“You waste a lot of time on what you believe versus what I believe,” Mays said.
Murphy called a “point of information” to dispute what Mays said.
“As the president, you should not be reflecting your opinion on what you think about me. That’s your personal opinion,” Murphy said.
When Mays told Murphy that was an improper “point of information” and issued him a warning, Murphy got up and left, ending the meeting.