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Talent council tries new meeting openers

Talent City Council members are now opening their meetings in individual ways instead of with the Pledge of Allegiance.

“I think it reflects the nature our city; this is diverse and open. I thought it was wonderful,” said Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood. The openings will allow for different points of view, she added.

Council members have debated how to open the meetings for more than a year. In July 2018, Ayers-Flood cast a tie-breaking vote to defeat a motion to eliminate saying the pledge at the beginning of each meeting.

“There have been several discussions over how to open the meeting and whether or not the charter calls for that,” Ayers-Flood said. Councilors had decided it was the presiding officer’s prerogative to determine how to open a meeting, and Ayers-Flood had been asking those present to join in reciting the pledge.

During a training session on communication a few month ago, the topic of opening the sessions came up again. Those present decided to try the new arrangement with one councilor per meeting opening the session in a manner that is intentional or different.

Members are presenting in the order of their council seat numbers. Councilor Daria Land gave the first opening at the Nov. 6 meeting.

Land took her opportunity to remind those present of the benefit of better communication. She read 10 basic rules for communication, including not multitasking while interacting with others, entering every conversation assuming you have something to learn, admitting when you don’t know something and, most importantly, being a good listener.

“If you are anything like me, you probably have barely had a chance to breathe today,” said Councilor Emily Berlant as she started the Nov. 20 session. She then asked audience members to close their eyes, uncross arms and legs, open up posture, inhale and exhale, relax and unclench jaws. She then asked them to hold another deep breath while they kept their best intentions in mind.

Berlant also asked people to serve with what they have and to assume people are all working for the best interest of Talent. She also asked that they agree to listen and to be courteous and kind. The councilor also called for acknowledgment that the meeting was taking place on the traditional territories of indigenous people and that they consider the disposition of those people currently.

Councilor Stephanie Dolan opened the Dec. 4 meeting.

“I love how well everyone is doing with it. Everyone has had a really good practice preparation for the meetings,” said Ayers-Flood.

The mayor hasn’t heard comments from the public on the new opening style outside of the meeting. But she said one speaker during the meeting opened by Berlant reported he knew he was at home when he heard an opening like that.

Ayers-Flood said she will likely open with the Pledge of Allegiance when it is her turn because she feels that’s a good way to focus intentions, but didn’t rule out trying something else if it seems appropriate. She said the process will likely be evaluated after it has been in place for a while to see if it is a good fit.

Another change to City Council procedures won’t leave the public out in the cold, literally. During executive sessions the public must leave the meeting room, but this has resulted in members of the audience standing outside the Community Hall in chilly conditions in the past.

At the Nov. 20 council meeting, the audience remained in the hall while the council, some city staff and news media representatives adjourned to the adjacent kitchen facility for a brief executive session. Approximately 30 members of the public were in attendance, most to hear council deliberation on Talent sending a jail construction bond measure to the ballot. City Manager Sandy Spelliscy proposed the idea. When she served on the Mount Shasta City Council that body used the procedure.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy cityoftalent.org