Town Square

Do City Council members talk too much?

Original post made on Jan 17, 2013

Worried that lengthy meetings are "undermining public confidence" in the political process, Palo Alto's mayor and two City Council members have called for possible mandatory limits on council members' speaking time.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, January 17, 2013, 9:29 AM


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2013 at 10:19 am

Haven't been to many council meetings, but they do and a time limit would be great. School board meetings are the same.

Posted by resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 17, 2013 at 10:30 am


Posted by hank, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 17, 2013 at 10:38 am

how about 7 members instead of 9---most cities our size have 5

Posted by Wow, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 17, 2013 at 10:45 am

Will they be able to keept the meeting to discuss time limits to the hour time limit they've established?

Posted by gcoladon, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 17, 2013 at 11:04 am

gcoladon is a registered user.

My confidence in elected leaders has very little to do with the amount of time they spend discussing an issue before voting on it, unless they don't spend 'enough' time discussing it :)

How about others'?

Posted by Dan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 17, 2013 at 11:05 am

The disturbing trend that I see is that everyone feels that they have to comment on everything, even if what they are saying is the same thing that someone has already said. A simple, "I agree" should suffice. If you have something important to say, then OK. If you don't, avoid the urge to get your name in the record.

Posted by anonyous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 17, 2013 at 11:21 am

yes. Also for the school board.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 17, 2013 at 11:49 am

Yes, they are long-winded. But the real time wasters are the STAFF. They never say Yes, or No, or We'll let you know. They speak in long paragraphs, sometimes obscuring their response. Maybe that's the game.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 17, 2013 at 11:50 am

Agree with Dan about simply saying "Agree". Also agree with Hank that our City Council is unnecessarily big. If we could reduce it to 7 or better yet 5 members Council meetings would be more efficient. Anyone want to put some energy behind achieving that? I will help.

Posted by Mr Clawdy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Good Lawdy, Miss Clawdy!

They speak way to much! Using facts, debating solutions, even sometimes wasting time (even Miss Clawdy knows I never waste time speaking of silly wasteful things!)

They need a time limit! One size fits all! No matter how serious the issue - ding, ding, bells a ringin', time's up, you dumb pup! Move on! Who cares about whether is may affect a thousand silly Palo Altans! Time's a'wasting! Ding, Ding, ring a ding, my ding-a-ling (whups, can't start with Chucks old song - there's a one song per post rule!)

Okay, I be real: how on earth can any citizen want to set a limit? Democracy doesn't fit in bite size segments, you ADHD freaks. Go back to your tivo and fast fwd thru the slow scenes but leave democracy alone. If the issue is serious, I WANT YOU to be heard, not stomped on by an egg-timer.

dumb, dumb, dumb

Let's finish with a little (something) in the morning and not come home all night:

"So, bye, bye, bye baby; Girl, I won't be comin' no more; Goodbye little darlin' down the road I'll go"

gots to love it!

Posted by Regular Council Attendee, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Yes, if one member speaks on an item they all feel they must jump in and speak to that item whether they know anything about it or not. We have Council members who go right off the subject at a tangent, bore everyone to death, and waste a whole lot of time.

I agree with Greg Scharff some Council members must be reigned in. I've sat through too many boring off the subject long winded Council Members who speak sooo slowly.

Posted by more sense not rules, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Schedule meetings before dinner and let the public make their comments at the beginning and not the end.

They'll wrap things up faster.

Posted by Sally-Ann Rudd, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm

There's usually so much clutter on the agenda that they don't get to the main issue until 8, 9, 10pm by which time most of the public have given up and gone home. Then, if there aren't many speakers, they conclude no one was interested. Consent calendar could be shuffled off to a separate approval stream, leaving the issues that really deserve debate to an earlier time slot.

Posted by Vahe Katros, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm

As Yogi Berra might have said: They don't take minutes at Palo Alto City Council meetings.

Posted by Paul, a resident of University South
on Jan 17, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Council meetings are way too long, and council members speak unnecessarily long. A strict time limit may not be the answer, but a strong chair (mayor) is certainly needed to control the discussion and discourage repetition. Also, council should hear from the public before making their comments. All too often,"questions" from council members are really just comments. Questions before public comment should simply aim to clarify issues that the public may want to address.

Posted by Henry, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm

The focus on shorter comments is a ruse to stifle dissent. The council meetings could be much shorter and more effective if staff produced quality staff reports that fairly present all the issues and the pros and cons of multiple alternatives. Right now the staff reports are biased reports that advocate only for their own recommendation. That means that any council member who do not fall in line with staff's recommendation must tease out the facts, and that takes time.

The public confidence is undermined by poor management and bad decision making over a long period. The goal should be the correct outcome, not saving a few minutes in the process of making bad decisions.

Posted by Regular Council Attendee, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 17, 2013 at 6:50 pm

The real answer to this problem would be to reduce the number of Council members from 9 to 7. We don't need 9, 7 are just as capable of making decisions as 9.

Unfortunately, this will never happen because the City would have to amend the City Charter which is about as difficult as amending the U.S Constitution.

Posted by Sammy, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 17, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Yes! Also, would like to see the council reduced fom 9 to 7. This should be put on the next ballet.

Posted by hank, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 17, 2013 at 11:16 pm

we changed the charter for when we hold elections---not hard to do if they would just do it

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 18, 2013 at 8:57 am

Here we go again: I also support reducing the number of PA city council members. I have lived in other cities with fewer councilmembers and things seemed to go along much more promptly.

Posted by also anonymous, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 18, 2013 at 9:27 am

It's not that they talk too long it's that they say too little of importance. If the meetings went late but great work was accomplished that would be different. This is especially true for the school board which must be worse than the Council. They are all basically helpless idiots who can't look anything up without staff assistance, don't understand statistics but run an organization based on the interpretation of numbers, they repeat themselves and each other endlessly, they haven't read anything before the meeting, and what they do say is just endless praise of staff no matter how lacking in ability or substance the work actually is. They drag their meetings out until 1:00 in the morning yet accomplish nothing. They make hash of everything they try to do (everyday math, calendar, counseling, Mandarin Immersion, Cubberley, Brown Act, etc.). If the Council is worse I can't imagine how.

Posted by Addison dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 18, 2013 at 11:03 am

Yes, way too much. I think they feel that if one or two council members have commented on a subject, then they should too just to make sure they're on the record and contributing.

Posted by LessIsBetterThanMore, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I agree with Frank...less people.

Posted by John , a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 18, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Agree with Dan and Annette- they waste time just agreeing with each other. And then they still can't make a decision so everyone has to come back at a later date and continue the journey through the weeds. Greg is on the right path and I wish him luck - he'll need it!

Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Part of the problem is the City Council is too large for a City the size of Palo Alto. City Council members get benefits as well. So reducing the number of Council Members would save money. The following Cities all have larger populations than Palo Alto and have less Council members.
Santa Barbara
Santa Clara
San Mateo
Palo Alto has the same size City Council as San Diego, Sacramento, Long Beach. All much larger population and number of employees.

Posted by Mark, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2013 at 11:53 pm


I agree! How can we get an initiative on the ballad to reduce the numbe of council membersr, a petition?

We should move on that ASAP! Smaller government starts at the top! It would be much more efficient and serve us all better in the LNG run to have a 5-7 member council. My votes for 5!