Bryan City Council

Bryan Mayor Jason Bienski listens to a resident speak during a council meeting in 2013.

On the second and fourth Tuesday of the month when the Bryan City Council meets, Councilman Chuck Konderla says city staff often start their day early, work through normal hours and attend the meeting that can last several hours, often resulting in 16-plus hour days and a precarious work-life balance.

It's one of the reasons why Konderla and Councilman Greg Owens requested to place an item on the agenda for Tuesday's council meeting to consider changing the start time for workshop and regular council meetings to as early as 8 a.m. beginning with the first meeting in November.

The Bryan City Council typically begins its meetings at 6 p.m. But the meetings are becoming "longer and longer," Konderla said, and he's spoken to constituents who have said they would like to attend but don't want to leave their families in the evening.

"I think the beauty of moving it, in my opinion, is that you get started earlier with the workshops and executive session so open meetings start earlier as well," Konderla said.

Owens said Tuesday's agenda item is a way to start a dialogue to come up with a better way to have the meetings or to "take into account the length of time the meetings last." Owens said he'll support moving the meeting start time in some form.

"The regular meeting starts at 6 p.m. and we get to City Hall at 2 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. or noon depending on how much we need to do," Owens said. "All we're saying is, let's start earlier. Maybe it's 10 a.m., maybe it's 9 a.m. and the regular meeting would be a little earlier in the afternoon."

Some options could include having an evening meeting once every quarter, or trying an earlier start time for six months to see if it works, Owens said. He pointed to the Bryan Independent School board of trustees' format of having one school board meeting a month at noon and a second at 6 p.m.

It's not unprecedented for a government meeting to be in the morning -- the Brazos County Commissioners Court meets at 10 a.m. regularly -- but the Bryan City Council doesn't have a history of early start times.

In 1969, the council usually met at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, and in the 1970s the time was moved to 5 p.m. on Mondays, said City Secretary Mary Lynne Stratta. In 1991, the council moved its meetings to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays so as not to conflict with Bryan ISD school board meetings, and there has been no change since.

While the council goes into open session for the regular agenda at 6 p.m., Stratta said workshop and executive session before then are sometimes at different hours.

"We figure out how long we need and back it up from there with hopes of being downstairs at 6 o'clock," Stratta said.

The College Station City Council usually has its workshops at 5:30 p.m. before their 7 p.m. regular meeting.

Konderla said he's received several messages from constituents "applauding" the idea to have meetings earlier, saying it's good for staff and a better use of the city's money. He did receive an email from one person saying morning meetings would take away the ability for people to speak at the Hear Citizens forum at the beginning of the meeting.

If the meeting time changes, Konderla said, there would still be an opportunity for Hear Citizens, a time when people can address the council for three minutes on topics not on the regular agenda. Konderla added Hear Citizens is not required by state law, and council members can be reached at any time for conversations via phone, email or in person.

"There's no ideal situation for everyone, but I've been on council almost five and a half years, and people have told me, 'I would have liked to come and speak on that, but I have to be home with my family,'" Konderla said. "Sometimes people can get off work easier than they can get a sitter in the evening."

Konderla said the biggest payoffs to having earlier meetings would be providing a better work-life balance for staff and potentially attracting City Council candidates who would not be able to run otherwise. Konderla said people have told him that they would like to run for City Council, but can't attend evening meetings.

Konderla, whose at-large Place 6 seat is up for grabs, did not file for re-election and will leave the council in November, said that "me being there or me not being there does not change those things being big benefits."

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(18) comments

BONNIE WINNER

Surprized Bryan Council does not meet at 3:00 AM in a dark coffee shop.

Peter Witt

Three members of council usually join their supporters at McDonalds on Villa Maria after most council meetings...and the same three meet with at 414 Main most Friday's for lunch...but for the Friday meeting you have to be invited and approved by Southerland, and if you disagree with him in public he will not invite you back to the meeting.

Common Sense

I hope anyone who cares about open govt. comes to tomorrow night council meeting because believe it or not this meeting change from 6pm to 8am will effectively block out working class citizens who don't get off work till after 5pm and families who drop off their young ones to the various schools around town to the small business owners who simply can't afford to miss out on business. Don't be fooled by the rhetoric listen to your gut on this one and ask yourselves if it walks like a duck sounds like a duck then it's probably a duck. Moving these meetings to an earlier time is the same as taking someone's right to attend the meetings because simply put everyone has a live to live, a family to support, a mouth to feed and there are only certain times people can come out and speak against something so heinous and goes against good open transparent govt. please at the very least come to council tomorrow to speak your mind wherever you fall on this issue because this could be the last time your able to attend if councilmen Greg Owens councilman chuck konderla as well as the voting block mayor bienski art Hughes

Anita Ramay

It is beginning to seem that the mayor and his bought-and-paid-for councilmen don't really care to hear from the citizens. First they had the opening statement that they don't have to let us speak, then they tried to disenfranchise the voters of Districts 1 and 2, and now this move of the meetings to the morning!

If the meetings are taking too long, then why not move the lengthy presentations, and photo ops to another time. Most of the citizens who attend meetings are there for the City business, not the self promotion of the mayor!

Another place to save time is in the listing by each councilmen of the free dinners and galas they have attended! No one really cares!

The meetings should continue to be held at 6 PM!

Rosemary Vollmar

Oops, Rosemary Vollmar here again. My previous post mentioned 2 amendments to the Charter but I only mentioned one -- an evening time for open council sessions.

I also thought that we should place a "Hear Citizens" section in the council agenda that would be legal, and not just a "courtesy" for us citizens that sometimes sounds like it will be withheld by the Mayor, or Mayor pro-tem

That is the second amendment to the city Charter I meant.

Rosemary Vollmar

I voted no also, BellLady. I have attended evening council meetings, 8 am Special Council Meetings that were held on / for contentious items, and I watch the live council meetings on my computer when necessary.

I just went and checked the City Charter to see if a time is specified for the meetings. No. The only specification in the Charter is twice a month unless more are needed.

Maybe it is time for the Charter to have an evening time specified for open session Council Meetings --- as BryanTX below --- has suggested.

Oh, and while the council is mulling over the wording for these two amendments for the 2016 November election, they will notice that there is also enough time for a "Charter Amendment Petition Drive" to be undertaken if they (council) don't pose the amendments themselves.

BryanTX

IMO, Council can have their workshop/executive sessions anytime they choose, but the regular meeting should begin no earlier than 5 pm so that most interested citizens would be more easily able to attend. If they're concerned about staff, then the city manager should allow those required to be at the regular meeting to have additional comp leave or be granted overtime pay.

Wonder what percentage of those voting in the poll above have ever attended a council meeting - or have any real interest in city government... I voted no! An 8:00 a.m. meeting is a very bad idea on many levels as have been stated below in comments.

WILLIAM KUYKENDALL

There they go again. Another dirty trick by the elite majority to silence the voices of Districts 1 and 2. Remember when the Bienski crowd tried to disenfranchise 1 and 2 with their petition to change the voting rules? This is more of the same, perhaps a little more subtle, nonetheless deceptive. It's being advertised as being in the interest of "family time". History tells us what the real reason is.

Did Konderla and Owens show proper respect by polling all members of council to see what their thoughts were prior to introducing this agenda item? Did they get unanimous consent? If they did, then all is cool. If they did not, then this has all the markings of another power play by the Bienski machine to enhance its strangle hold on city government. And it's being set in motion just before an election that threatens to dismantle Bienski's 4-vote majority, assuming that members of the new majority can get time off work to attend council meetings. .

[wink]

Lloyd Joyce

I am disappointed and disgusted when I hear an elected official state that the law does not require them to hear citizens on their agenda. Statements like this come to me as a threat and indicate how they feel about hearing from the citizens.

Their concern is about a few staff members being inconvenienced but give no thought to the inconvenience placed on the citizens of Bryan.

I hope that Konderla and Owens will think through what they are asking for. Surely they do not want history to record this as their crowning achievement while serving on the Bryan City Council.

Khris Tover

Texas Eagle 2=Peter Witt

Peter if you knew the situation you would know that Council member Pena works nights, working security.
the city council meetings already start early afternoon, so why has no council member ever complained about having to miss work most afternoons. I commend Council Member Konderla and Owens for making family time important once again! the meetings are televised and on line, unlike school board or Brazos County meetings which are held during the day. Why are you all not complaining about that? When does the US Senate and US house meet? during the day. How about the State Law makers? during the day? why no concern there? the ATM board of Regents? during the day. I have emailed and contacted my city council member many of times about city issues. I had no problems communicating with my city officials. I don't have time to attend the meetings, but know how to get in touch with my elected officials. If this was CM Southerlands idea you would be championing it! I see that most of the blog comments come during the day time hours, maybe you should all wait till tonight to comment back!

Peter Witt

Bad4Bryan, or whomever you are: Yours is truly a silly note. We are talking about the city of Bryan, not these other entities....but, if you want to talk examples, CS meets at 7 p.m. at night. Citizens have a right to interact with their elective representatives in city government...the times they meet need to be convenient for citizens...they are doing the work of the people.

You are also complete wrong about connections with Southerland....I support some of what he proposes, but certainly not everything...I would never go along with this plan, no matter who proposed it.

And of course you fail to address what is really going on here. Yes, Pena works at night, gets off work for council meeting nights. He also goes to school and some semesters has Tu/Th a.m. classes, he is an engineering student, not everything can be online. Pena's schedules are fully known...especially by those trying to find away to get him off council. The Hardemans have been trying to get rid of him for 18 months...they don't like people who fight for the folks who elected them, while also working for the entire city of Bryan. They and the mayor don't like people who upset the apple cart by beating their handpicked candidates...which is what happened. Pena is a good councilman...and provides great service for his constituents.

As to who I am, that is for me to know and you to speculate about. But, I would be proud to be associated with Peter Witt, a Jefferson Award winner in our community.

BONNIE WINNER

Bad, so you think the State and Federal gov't operate in the best interest of the average citizen of this Country. Make up your mind!!!!

Iva

Something’s fishy about this.

Peter Witt

It doesn't take much reading between the lines to figure out what Konderla and Owens are up to. They have put up a smoke screen of concern about city workers' time and work-life balance of citizens and workers to mask the fact that they would rally like to eliminate Mr. Pena from holding a council seat.

You see Mr. Pena, while also working a full time job (which he can maneuver to attend afternoon workshop meetings and evening council meetings), also goes to school, in the mornings. The councilman know this. With the Hardeman-Hamiln race for a district 5 seat in full swing, they know that control of council hangs in the balance and making it hard for Mr. Pena to complete his degree (and work, and be with his family, and attend council) is what they are after.

This is a made up issue, designed to discriminate against individuals who work during the day and desire to run for council....i.e., Hardeman (who is retired) vs. Hamlin (who works full time, but can get off some of the time for council meetings, but not full days)...or Pena (who the Hardemans have been trying to silence on council since Pena was elected...remember the Hardemans were part of the group trying to change voting patterns for districts 1 and 2 to eliminate all but hand-picked Bienski candidates from winning elections, and Ms. Hardeman stood before council about 18 months ago shaking her finger at Mr. Pena telling him that if he didn't do things the way the Hardeman's wanted done, she would work to have him removed from council.

The bulk of city council employees who attend evening sessions of council are exempt employees, i.e., they are not restricted to a 40-hour work week and they can work flexible hours There is an even better solution to the work-life balance issue: on council meeting days, city employees involved with evening council meetings could simply be given the morning off. Opps, but that would still leave Pena on council and wouldn't make it harder for working people to be members of council.

Konderla and Owens are trying to snow the voters of Bryan by suddenly being concerned about work-life balance...a good issue, but not one that needs to be solved in the way they are proposing. Clearly they have more in mind as they suddenly being concerned about evening meetings...as usual the Bienski group is undertaking moves to retain power on council through whatever smoke screens possible.

The two councilman will sound high and mighty at Tu meeting, but they are talking in code....what they really mean to say is that by adjusting the times for city meetings we can control who runs for council, who remains on council and who has power on council. The Bienski group's attempt at this boldface ruse is unmasked and should be called out for what it is....

Please let your Councilman know what a bad idea this 8:00 a.m. meeting time is.

The majority of those on the Council don't pay attention to what citizens have to say, but at least there is now the opportunity to speak at a time when people aren't working or going to school. Is anyone else tired of being told that a Hear Citizens time on the agenda isn't required, but that, in effect, Council is doing us all a huge favor by including it?

Also, the candidates running for Council in the future would be limited to those not impacted by this proposed schedule.

There's an excellent letter to the editor in today's Eagle. Please read it.

Peter Witt

http://www.theeagle.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/letters-for-october/article_9e6346ab-98f6-507b-8109-982c60882cd0.html

Here is the link to Peter Witt's letter.

BONNIE WINNER

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