Communication: ‘A long ways to go’
RIVERSIDE—At the Riverside City Council meeting on Monday night councilor Bob Schneider Jr. brought up the touchy topic of communication.
He said he wasn’t happy with how the council members were communicating with each other and city administrator Rusty Rogerson.
“This is going to be some constructive criticism,” Schneider said. “Take it with a grain of salt. I think we have a long ways to go. I don’t think we’re quite there yet and I hope Pat Callahan can still help us on our endeavors to improve communication between all of us.”
The primary problem Schneider pointed out to the other councilors is e-mail.
“About two weeks ago I calculated all of those e-mails [sent out between Friday and Sunday] and he [Rusty] received 49 e-mails over the weekend,” Schneider said, “and part of that was a holiday we were expecting him to respond to.”
He also said the way the e-mails were written opened up the council to the Iowa open meetings law. When individual councilers send out e-mail, they copy everyone on the city council list and Schneider asked them to stop doing this. He said they should just send e-mail to Rogerson or just call him.
Schneider said the way the e-mails were worded was the issue. Sometimes the answer to the question asked could be interpreted as demanding the answer, which prompts other councilors to answer back.
“Once you get that dialogue going back and forth, it’s too late,” Schneider said. “There are a lot of times I’d like to pound that keyboard and send back answers and to me that’s the open violation that I’m trying to stay away from.”
Mayor Bill Poch reminded the council about e-mails being public information. He asked the council to remember this when they’re sending out e-mails.
Councilor Chris Kirkwood asked if a question were sent to Rogerson, wouldn’t everyone else want to know? She also said she didn’t care who saw the e-mails.
“Like you said, these are all public information,” Kirkwood said. “Print them all off and bring them in here. I don’t have anything in there I wouldn’t want anyone else to see.”
Councilor Kevin Kiene said the problem was when the councilors receive their agenda packets. He said right now the packets aren’t received until Friday evening, which leaves the weekend to get questions answered. Kiene made a suggestion to prevent mass e-mails being sent out.
“Could we up the deadline for the agenda coming out to Thursday?” Kiene asked. “That would make a big difference.”
Mayor Bill Poch said he thought this was a great idea and the council had discussed this topic before. Councilor Nate Kasdorf also agreed with the suggestion.
“The more time we have to prepare for the meeting, the better,” Kasdorf said. “The plan of that is if you set the deadline for Thursday or Wednesday, that’s the deadline. Period. So what’s the difference if the deadline’s Wednesday or the deadline’s noon on Friday? The deadline is the deadline.”
Poch asked Rogerson to put this on the list of things for Pat Callahan to review with the council when he comes back in August. Please see tomorrow’s edition of The Journal for more about the city council meeting.