Flint, MI—Flint City Council passed new rules for governing its meetings on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, but the vote was not unanimous and some members are doubtful they’ll bring any changes.

Council Vice President Ladel Lewis said the new rules have been needed for a long time, because as council changes, the rules need to change too.

“People were manipulating the rules for their own benefit,” she told Flint Beat.

Also, meetings can go on for many hours, stretching well into the evening. Lewis said that timing tends to be dependent on whether Councilman Eric Mays is in attendance.

“It all depends if a certain councilperson is there. So you know, we’ve got out as early as 8:15 [p.m.] when the councilperson wasn’t there,” she said.

When he is there, though, things tend to take longer, she added. “We’ve stayed as late as three 0’clock in the morning,” Lewis told Flint Beat.

One of the major changes with the new rules is that the grants committee has been dissolved and will now be under the umbrella of the finance committee.

Lewis said this made sense because the council often loses quorum before it gets to its grants committee, which was one of five committees previously.

Newly elected Second Ward City Councilwoman Ladel Lewis gives remarks after being sworn in to the new Flint City Council on Nov. 8, 2021, at City Hall. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Another new rule requires that if a person makes a request for information (which would have previously been a “point of information”) and that person already knows the answer, it is considered “improper.”

This rule encourages the chair to consider issuing a warning to the councilmember who commits the offense, which could lead to removal from the meeting later, Lewis said.

Though some of the rule changes were aimed at creating efficiencies, council voted not to keep a rule change that would have ended council meetings at 10 p.m. without a vote to continue.

Lewis said that potential rule was taken out because if order is otherwise maintained throughout meetings, then the meetings shouldn’t run until 10 p.m. anyway.

“We’re going to move forward with order in all of our meetings, and we’re going to get rid of all distractions that come up,” she said.

In a Facebook post, Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer also expressed his belief that, given the new rules, council’s meetings will be more productive moving forward.

“The previous rule set utilized at council meetings allowed for a less productive or more drawn out process, due to procedural inefficiencies and lack of clear priorities,” he wrote.

He added that the new rules prioritize the city’s business and allow council to have a more effective decision-making process.

Councilwoman Judy Priestley, who was on the committee that drafted the rule changes, told Flint Beat she thinks they’re a step in the right direction.

“I think they’re designed to move the meeting forward so that we don’t have to stay late,” she said.

Another big change is council’s ability to adopt a “consent agenda,” Priestley noted. This means that the council can vote on minutes, communications, appointments, resolutions, licenses and ordinances in just one vote with no discussion.

If there’s something that needs to be left out of the consent resolution for discussion and voting that is also an option, she said.

Though some councilmembers were optimistic, not all have shown support for the new rules.

Councilman Eric Mays, who was asked to leave the Feb. 27 meeting before the rule change vote occurred, told Flint Beat he’s not happy with the new rules, adding that he believes the new rules were put together in violation of the Open Meetings Act.

“They removed me from the meeting where they passed those, so I didn’t get a chance to have input before they voted to pass,” he said. “I think that was intentional and problematic.”

Flint City Council Member Eric Mays during the interview process for the selection of a permanent city clerk during a special City Council meeting at the Flint City Hall Council Chambers on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

He also said another issue is that the rules are not applied equally to all councilmembers. Councilwoman Tonya Burns had said something similar during the rule change discussions, as well, alongside Councilwoman Jerry Winfrey-Carter.

“I will not be voting on these rules. You guys don’t follow the rules anyway,” Winfrey-Carter had said at the Feb. 27 meeting. “Like I said and I’ll continue to say, it’s a double standard here.”

Council’s new rules will be used for the first time on Wednesday, March 8 at the body’s committee meetings.

Sophia is Flint Beat's City Hall reporter. She joins the team after previously reporting for the Livingston Daily and the Lansing State Journal, along with some freelance work with The New York Times....

4 replies on “Flint City Council members offer mixed views on what new meeting rules will achieve”

    1. Show your profile picture when you make comments. That’s when we’ll know you’re not afraid to to say it proudly 👍🏾

  1. New rules have long been needed. You know who continually manipulates the rules to monopolize the meetings.

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