This is not an official blog of the City. It is the work of Mark Kapel who is solely responsible for content.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Agenda Packets Are Your Key to Understanding City Meetings

Agenda Packet August 9th City Commission Meeting
Agenda Packet August 9th Planning Commission Meeting

In order to provide greater transparency, more and more municipal governments are making agenda packages available to the general public.

An agenda packet is a folder of documents provided to each commissioner that relate to the business to be discussed at the upcoming meeting.  Your copy in the form of a PDF file is available on the city website. The Agenda packet for the Tuesday August 9th City Commission meeting which begins at 7:30 PM is 104 pages long. The Agenda Packet for the planning commission meeting which begins at 4:00 on August 9th is 52 pages long. The Agenda Packets for this week’s meetings appeared on the City’s web site last Saturday.  The packets can also include other information such invoices the city paid and police call reports.

Some municipalities make stylish packets that resemble a virtual spiral bound note book.  Troy Michigan’s City Manager provides helpful tips on City Government in their agenda packets. Curious minds want nothing of the sort. You want exactly what the City of Bloomfield Hills provides and that is the “Big Dump” or every conceivable document that relates to the matter at hand.  For you to get the  Big Dump Agenda packet for tomorrow night , City Clerk Amy Burton and her hard working staff had  to scan 152  plus pages into the computer. This year in addition to City Commission Agenda Packets, residents will also be provided with Planning Commission Agenda Packets.

What’s in the Agenda Package? Well for starters the meeting agenda is the first document. This will give you  a feel of what will be discussed at the meeting. For August 9th  Roads will be ddebated  and will be the first hard topic (agenda item 4)  at  City Commission meeting. Cell phone towers and mail boxes at city hall do not currently appear on the City Commission  agenda but agendas are not blocks of stone. Anything can change and the final agenda is available in short supply at the door to the meeting. Come early or read over somebody’s shoulder.

Next in the City Agenda Packet are  the invoices the city must pay. Car washes for public vehicles, $17,000 in legal costs, $7,000 for the road report from HRC, and  $645 for a lady’s mail box that got run over and was replaced with  one from Russell Hardware are all there.

Next are documents pertaining to the meeting‘s agenda topics. Some agenda items have no documents. Others have volumes and some present a dazzling array of city minute meeting from years gone which will be confusing. You could try to sort the big dump by topics but why bother? The fact that you’re reading it puts you ahead of the curve. And you don’t have to read every word or study every page. The Big Dump is not necessarily history but a reference point for future action. 

How do you get the Agenda Packet off the city website and on to your computer?  Easy.  Just copy it by clicking on the little disk picture on top when the PDF file opens. You can also put the PDF on a Nook (I don’t know about Kindle. Maybe it works there too.) and read it there or take it with you. You could even take it to the meeting and follow along. PDF files take up hardly any space.

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