Meeting change brought up, then abandoned at Aberdeen Council

Aberdeen Council President Kathi Hoder on Wednesday tried to revive holding the body’s committee of the whole meetings in a small conference room adjacent to its main council chambers.

In 2008, the council voted to abandon the conference room meetings, where most discussion and debate would be held largely out of view of the public and then simple up and down votes would be conducted on the council floor. The process was sometimes called “the meeting before the meeting.”

To the surprise of some of her fellow council members, Hoder decided Wednesday’s meetings should be held in the conference room.

“Why are we doing this?” Councilman Jeff Cook asked, his thoughts echoed by several others on the council. “When did we decide to do this and how can this be conducive to having a good debate?”

But, during the council meeting, Hoder admitted, “I goofed.” After making the announcement, she said she should have asked for a vote of the council to change the meeting practices. By the end of the meeting on Wednesday, however, no one wanted to make that motion, which means that the practice over the past five years will stay in place — with all council activity happening in the main council chambers, where it’s recorded and visible to the audience.

Hoder said she was just trying to find a way to run council meetings in a more personable setting, noting the 1960s-era council chamber doesn’t function well. Last year, former Public Works Director Larry Bledsoe drew up plans to reconfigure the chambers at a cost of $12,000, work that could be done in-house.

Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson said he advised against spending the funds to revamp the council chambers at a time when the city is asking residents for a tax increase and higher utility rates.

Councilman Denny Lawrence suggested that council members consider dipping into their own pocket and do some of the work themselves to fix the council chambers, noting they’ve worked together on Rebuilding Together projects before.