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Editorial: Regulations hamper caucus meeting idea

The Prescott City Council is working to be open, efficient, transparent and informal; yet, they also want to and must comply with the law.

The questions come when its members host "caucus" meetings, which began in February.

They are council meetings, but not as formal. They are brainstorming sessions, but not true workshops. Members do not sit at the dais, but around a table. At the same time, the city attorney said, the meetings will have to follow an agenda and be posted.

Confused yet?

In theory, the idea of a council caucus is growing legs. Councilmen Chris Kuknyo and Charlie Arnold said this week that the caucuses are useful because they allow council members to suggest issues for the agenda, and then "brainstorm" on them without the formal constraints of voting meetings. Also, they are aimed at allowing council members to bring up and discuss issues in a roundtable-type format.

Still, they cannot put on the caucus agenda "downtown issues," but instead will have to be more specific - such as parking or vagrancy/panhandling, which occur downtown.

And, right now, the meetings are not taped or broadcast on television like is done with the regular council meetings.

At this week's council meeting, if the caucuses continue, members agreed Channel 13 public access should televise them. Mayor Marlin Kuykendall said, "Our goal is to inform the public. Are we shorting the public (with the caucus meetings)?"

Council members also said having meetings without formalities - including roll-call votes - is beneficial, but because of agenda and other Arizona Open Meeting Law requirements, the usefulness of the caucus meetings is in question.

"Unless you agendize it, you can't talk about it," Councilman Jim Lamerson said. "So why are we doing the caucuses?"

Beneficial? Yes. The alternative is smaller groups of council members talking outside of the public's view.

Useful? Not so much, when you consider that true "brainstorming" is hamstrung by the agenda requirements.

Nice try, but the idea's legs are cramping.


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