Cape council divided over meeting format change

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

A divided Cape Girardeau City Council couldn't reach an agreement Monday night on whether to change the format of council meetings.

At the urging of Mayor Jay Knudtson, the city council discussed the possibility of scrapping study sessions in favor of a single televised meeting. Knudtson ended up appointing himself and council members Evelyn Boardman and Charles Herbst to review the whole issue and report back to the council.

The council currently holds study sessions at city hall prior to the regular meeting, but those aren't televised. As a result, the televised regular meetings that follow often look staged, involve little discussion and don't let city residents see government at work, the mayor said.

Boardman said she'd like to see the city eliminate the study session and hold a single meeting.

But several of her colleagues said they like being able to discuss issues with city staff members at a study session in a more informal setting than would occur before television cameras.

Councilman Matt Hopkins said council meetings don't make good television. "What makes good TV is for us to get up here and argue." he said. The current council, he said, typically doesn't argue.

Councilman Hugh White said he doubts many residents even watch the televised council meetings on cable access channel 5. "It's just not that entertaining," he said.

But Knudtson said he believes "a lot of people" watch the council proceedings. "I'm not trying to foster good TV, I'm trying to foster trust," he said.

Councilwoman Marcia Ritter said it would be nice to allow the general public to get involved in discussions of city issues. That doesn't happen at study sessions where the discussion is limited to council members and city staff.

Council members said one possibility would be to televise the study sessions as well as council meetings.

Knudtson said study sessions at times are little more than a dry run for council meetings.

In other action, the council tabled the final readings of a proposed ordinance that would have implemented new fireworks regulations. City staff who said they wanted to review it to make sure it doesn't conflict with state regulations.

335-6611, extension 123

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