To the Editor: Members of the City Council along with the Mayor continue to look for ways to improve communications with the residents of Warwick. We have made a commitment to change the way traditional Council meetings run. Over my first four years on
To the Editor:
Members of the City Council along with the Mayor continue to look for ways to improve communications with the residents of Warwick. We have made a commitment to change the way traditional Council meetings run. Over my first four years on the Council, countless times I saw frustrated residents leave meetings because they attended to hear the discussion on a particular topic at a particular time based on the agenda. Too often committee meetings ran over, and it was not uncommon for a given topic to be addressed hours behind schedule. Attendees from the public rarely received an update on where we were in the agenda, and they were often left in the dark as to when the agenda item they were interested in would be discussed.
Since I began serving as Council President, my colleagues and I have made significant improvements to the Council meeting format. Now, we routinely make announcements during committee meetings to update attendees as to where we are with the agenda. We have appointed a volunteer Sergeant of Arms who attends each meeting to greet residents, to provide them with an agenda and learn of any items that are important to them, to inform them how to sign up for public comment, and to answer any questions they may have while the meeting is in session. Additionally, it is now standard practice to pause all committee meetings and to start the Council meeting on time at 7 p.m.
Each meeting now begins with a special guest from the community leading the group in the pledge of allegiance before sharing the story of their contribution to Warwick. So far, we have used this opportunity to learn from students, Eagle scouts, small business owners, veterans, and community leaders. Additionally, we have added to the agenda opportunities for City boards and nonprofits, such as the library board, the cemetery commission, the harbor commission, and Westbay Community Action, to provide updates on their important work.
From there, using information gathered by the Sergeant of Arms, the City Council votes to move topics to the top of the agenda so they can be heard at the beginning of the Council meetings. We prioritize addressing the “hottest” topic on the agenda first, allowing us to avoid keeping residents waiting to hear about the topics that are most important to them. In certain instances, we have called special meetings to discuss one or two major issues important to the public, allowing us to dedicate adequate time and attention to matters that deserve special consideration. For example, we have held special meetings for the City’s healthcare contract, and for union contracts for municipal workers and the police department.
For the first time in the years that I have been on the City Council, we receive regular financial updates on the City budget. Previously, the only time the overall budget of the City was discussed was during budget hearings when a new budget was being prepared and voted on. Now, through consistent, ongoing updates, the Council and citizens of Warwick are better informed of the City’s finances.
All of these changes have been made to help improve efficiency and to allow for more public participation in our local government. My colleagues on the Council and I are committed to continuing to improve our processes in service of the citizens of Warwick.
City Council President
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