“That’s uncalled for. You have three minutes to ask a question, not to dissect the whole resolution or legislation. Otherwise, we will be there until the cows come home and we won’t be able to run council business effectively.”
At one point Guridy told Hahn he was doing exactly what he does at City Council meetings – “you just keep talking and talking and asking questions.”
“So why aren’t you answering his questions?” asked Fegley.
When Guridy said he was answering them, Fegley said he was not, adding: “No one answered any of our questions.”
At one point, Guridy told Hahn: “You guys know what you want to do to council.”
Fegley demanded to know “what is it that we want to do? You are accusing us of something and I’d like you to state it to the press and the media. What is it that we’re trying to do? What do you mean by that?”
Responded Guridy to Fegley: “You want to get as much information as you can get; but also people like you, specifically, want to talk without timing.”
Fegley maintained he has never gone over the three-minute limit.
Guridy said he has done it many times. “It’s more than a time issue,” said Fegley. “What is it that we’re trying to do?”
“Speaking as long as you want to,” said Guridy.
Donovan, who was an unsuccessful candidate for mayor in the last election, suggested City Council should explore other ways “to have deep conversations about serious public policy issues of the city” without three or five-minute time constraints.
“We as a city do not do a good job in making the public feel comfortable to question politicians and policy,” said Donovan.
More than one person at the meeting suggested council members themselves should be raising some of the questions being asked by the public.
“Having sat on the dais, sometime we don’t have all the information available immediately,” said Donovan, who served on council 2008-2011.
But Donovan also suggested part of the problem may be that the mayor and members of council are all Democrats. “If you had three or four Republicans on it, it may be a little bit more contentious between executive and council.”
Frustration with administration
Some frustration at getting questions answered seemed directed at a lack of access to the city administration.
Hunsicker, for example, complained about residents having to file right-to-know requests to get information from city government.
Noting City Council is the legislative body of city government, Guridy said it cannot obligate the city administration to meet with the public.
Although elected, Mayor Ed Pawlowski does not routinely attend City Council meetings.
The meetings are attended by Francis Dougherty, the city’s managing director, but he often is not prepared to give people an immediate response to their questions.
Guridy noted city administrators do attend council committee meetings and can answer questions on whatever issue is before those committees.
He said by people going to those committee meetings with their questions, “it streamlines and shortens” discussions on issues that come up for a vote at council meetings. “That’s what committee meetings are for.”
Public comment on introduced legislation