North Carolina

City Council Retreat Appropriately Held On Groundhog Day

The Greensboro City Council’s annual two-day retreat appropriately began on Groundhog Day with an exercise too often repeated to mention.

However, Bill Murray was not present.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan explained that Councilor Yvonne Johnson was out of the country and unable to attend, while City Councilor Zack Matheny, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, attended remotely.

It wasn’t exactly Groundhog Day, as the retreat is being held at Revolution Mill, not the ACC Hall of Champions at the Coliseum Complex where it has been held for most of the past decade, and the prompts have not been exactly the same. But the discussion was the same one the City Council has had for years.

After brief opening remarks from Vaughan and City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba, Rachel Yost from the SIR Institute for Tomorrow in Richmond introduced the retreat with a discussion on the “Six Roles of Effective City Councillors”.

Yost said, “Put on your hat to think about the big picture.”

City council members discussed each of the six roles, ignoring the correct answers listed at the end of the handout.

The six roles of an effective city council according to SIR are:

set policy

represent everyone

Engage the community

Be a trustee

give an overview

Set the strategic direction

On policy-making, Councilor Nancy Hoffmann said: “We often don’t understand the role of the City Council as well as we need to. Too often we get bogged down in the little things trying to manage things on a day-to-day basis.”

Council member Marikay Abuzuaiter said the council must consider unintended consequences.

Councilor Goldie Wells said it’s important the council understand why they’re making the decision.

The correct answer, according to the handout, is: “Policy — Make consistent and clear policies — and follow them.”

Representing everyone, Vaughan said that she thinks the system of having both district and general members works well.

Vaughan also said that she felt the City Council did a good job of involving the community before a decision was made, but after the decision was made “it’s important to communicate effectively with the community, and I don’t think this is always done. ”

The correct answer: “Representation – Ensure that all voices/perspectives play a role in important matters.”

When Yost moved on to the next topic, Strategic Direction, and asked where the City Council was headed, there was a noticeable lack of reaction from City Council members.

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