Note: This is a brief report to the town on Oak Ridge City Council meetings on policy and planning.
Following a vote in June to do so, City Council has been having two policy and planning meetings each month.
At our first meeting, we agreed to follow the general outline of the Comprehensive Plan in order to give ourselves focus. We added a section for the U.S. Department of Energy. Council members Chuck Hope, Trina Baughn, David Mosby, Charlie Hensley, and Anne Garcia Garland have been attending. City attorney Ken Krushenski, a couple of interested citizens, and the press have attended also.
The most encouraging outcome so far has been that the five have begun to operate as a team. We are looking at ways to improve the council’s effectiveness.
Those who follow the Council agenda online will have noticed that Monday’s agenda included a resolution from Council to have four things occur:
- Reinstate the Budget and Finance Committee to collaborate with the city manager on budget proposals for each year,
- Require a monthly synopsis from the city manager on actions taken in the past month and anticipated issues upcoming,
- Require a quarterly financial report to Council (and therefore to the city), and
- Create access for all of Council to the Mayor’s calendar. It was generally agreed Monday that it would benefit us to have all our calendars visible online.
A significant policy agreed to by all present was that all of us should accept responsibility for one or more involvements on behalf of the city, which have in past years been assumed by the mayor alone. Doing so would educate all of us better and take advantage of our diversity of skills and interests to promote the city.
We seem to agree that building closer relationships with the counties in which Oak Ridge lives and our neighboring towns is a priority. Beyond that even, most of us favor developing relationships with people, governments, and organizations beyond the county lines. We noted the importance of developing consistent processes for sharing the information from activities in which we participate, share with each other and the whole public. Ms. Baughn has already set a good example in the briefs she publishes after each regular Council meeting.
We have asked the city manager to set up a special meeting to consider reopening the application for renewed assistance payments from the Department of Energy. At Council, we agreed that we should first have a workshop with staff. Both meetings will, of course, be open to the public.
The purpose of these meetings is to develop a practice of exercising foresight. We want to spend the time to anticipate where the city can be in 25 years. Direction informs decisions about priorities. If you don’t know where you are going, it doesn’t matter what road you take.
MTAS (Municipal Technical Assistance Service,) a state-funded service provided through the University of Tennessee, has provided facilitation for three of the four meetings held so far.
Anne Garcia Garland is an Oak Ridge City Council member.