Mayor Brody again votes ‘No’
On a 4-1 vote this week, the Sarasota City Commission affirmed its Sept. 7 decision to switch from an evening meeting schedule on the first and third Mondays and Tuesdays to a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule on the first and third Mondays of each month.
The board will take a lunch break from noon to 1 p.m. on those days.
Mayor Hagen Brody again was in the minority, though he initially cast a “Yes” vote before announcing, “I meant to vote ‘No.’ … Have a revote.”
Those comments prompted chuckles among some of his colleagues on the dais in City Hall, with someone suggesting he perhaps had changed his mind.
Having pulled the item from the board’s Consent Agenda No. 2 that night, Brody immediately had pointed out that he would vote against it once more.
The change will take effect with the Oct. 18 City Commission session.
“I understand that 9 to 5 meeting times works well for [city] staff,” Brody said. “However, I feel like it’s at the detriment of public participation, public input and also future involvement of city commissioners.”
Earlier this month, Brody suggested that the daytime schedule would deter potential candidates from seeking election to the commission.
During the board’s regular meeting on Sept. 7, Commissioner Liz Alpert proposed the meeting hours change, noting that a number of local government bodies in the general area conduct their sessions during the traditional workday hours.
She also stressed that the nighttime schedule would cost the city approximately $226,000 a year, because of the necessity of staff members being present after their daytime work.
In January, the City Commission modified its Rules of Procedure to conduct the Monday and Tuesday meetings from 6 to 10 p.m. Brody had proposed the switch from the split sessions that were being conducted from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. and then starting again at 6 p.m. on the first and third Mondays. He contended at the time that public participation would improve.
During the Sept. 20 discussion, Brody said, “I just think that cutting out everybody that works 9 to 5 in this community … defers too much to staff’s preference [on city business].”
On June 7, Alpert emphasized the fact that the other local government bodies that meet in the daytime — including the Sarasota County Commission — appear to have no problem drawing members of the public to address topics of interest.
Vice Mayor Erik Arroyo made the motion on Sept. 20 for the formal changes to the board’s Rules of Procedure, and Alpert seconded it.
“This goes back to us being able to manage our time efficiently,” Arroyo said. When he was first elected [in November 2020], he continued, “Meetings were running until 1 in the morning, and past commissions hadn’t always mentioned how that was a burden.”
City staff is expected on the job at 8 a.m. on weekdays, Arroyo pointed out. “It’s not fair to our staff” to have to work at night on the first and third Mondays and Tuesdays and then be in their offices at 8 a.m. the following days, he added.
Further, Arroyo noted the expense that Alpert addressed on June 7.
Moreover, Arroyo said, referring to the list of local government meeting times that Alpert had provided the other city commissioners on June 7, “We’re kind of the anomaly” in regard to schedules.
He also noted that, after the switch to the nighttime meetings, “We didn’t really see a spike in public involvement.”
Finally, Arroyo emphasized that anyone wishing to offer comments on an agenda item could do so by submitting a video or an email to the commissioners, providing eComments to city staff for board consideration, or scheduling meetings with the commissioners prior to the date the item will be heard.