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Monday, December 19, 2011

12/13 Planning Commission Meeting. Chairman agrees adherence to Michigan Open Meetings Act neglected by Task Force in pursuit of Tree Ordinance.

That is putting it as mildly as possible. It was agreed that not all meetings were publicized in advance. We would agree that very few were. Reasons for omitting public participation included
  • It was a work in progress and not finished
  • Since public comment would not be permitted there would be no need to invite the public
  • The necessary quorum might not be met and thus the meeting might be cancelled.
The whole point of the open meetings act is to allow the public observe their government in action. For all individuals that may not be possible all of the time. For that reason  the act requires that the minutes of the meetings be made available to the public after each meeting. The  exact words of the Open Meeting Act are

Minutes must be kept for all meetings and are required to contain:
(1) a statement of the time, date and place of the meeting;
(2) the members present as well as absent;
(3) a record of any decisions made at the meeting and a record of all roll call votes.

To the best of our knowledge  no ordinance task force minutes have yet been published elsewhere or even made available. This publication is requesting copies of the minutes of the Ordinance Task force from August through December so we the people may be able to better understand  the workings of our government. We will also endeavor to publish them.

In addition to being invited to attend meeting, and to have access to meeting minutes when the citizens (not the government) decide they are unable to attend, Michigan Residents according to Open meetings Act are entitled to see decisions of  their  government made at a public Meeting. The exact  words are

The basic intent of the Open Meetings Act is to strengthen the right of all Michigan citizens to know what goes on in government by requiring public bodies to conduct nearly all business at open meetings 

 Twice during the Planning Commission meeting of 12/13 the Chair made mention of an unidentified "they". The first occured  in regards to a question on what right of appeal a resident would have in regards to aspects of the Tree audience. The Chair said not all details had not been finalized and that there was a desire (presumably by the "they") to move or  a hurry  things along. Later a question about having the next meeting of the Task Force  at a mutually  agreeable  date in January  and thereby known to public was answered the same way by stating a December date would be more preferable( to presumably parties not present). The December date of tomorrow the 20th was later decided on and published well in advance.

At the prior ordinance Task Force meeting of November 30th  the tree ordinance resolution was described to this reporter as a slow leisurely process that might meander into the Spring. Now the tree ordinance seems ready for passage in mid January.We don't recall a public meeting in which this sudden acceleration was discussed or decided upon so we assume in deference to the Michigan Open Meetings Act it occurred over shopping carts at the supermarket. The act does permit such discussions at chance meetings not intended circumvent the the Open Meetings Act and  who would want to circumvent that do that ?

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