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What is a City Council Meeting?

City council meetings must be open to the public by law.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 December 2014
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City council meetings are regularly scheduled gatherings of city officials that are called to conduct the business of running the city. In most cases, city councils are composed of elected officials. Most cities have some provisions in their charters and bylaws to allow appointments to city councils under specific circumstances. A typical city council meeting will include councilpeople representing various geographic sectors of the city, as well as the mayor and other officials directly involved with the action items up for consideration at the meeting.

In most cities, the city council meeting is a public event. Residents of the city are welcome to attend and watch the proceedings. Often, there is the opportunity for citizens to make statements or ask questions of the councilpersons, the mayor, and other city officials that are present. When issues of major public interest are scheduled to be discussed at a city council meeting, it is not unusual for the local media to cover the proceedings.

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Depending on the responsibilities of the city council as defined in the official documents used to govern the city, the meeting may include a variety of action items to address. For example, a city council decision may be required before granting a liquor license to a local restaurant or allowing a resident to add an upper floor to a house located within the city limits. In some areas, the city council is the final body that must approve the issuance of a business license to specific types of new businesses within the jurisdiction of the city. A city council meeting may also oversee such items as the issuance of parade permits or allowing some type of public gathering on city owned property.

The proceedings at the typical city council meeting are usually nothing more than making decisions on mundane matters that are necessary to the continued orderly operation of the city. Many cities prefer to conduct their meetings using some type of parliamentary procedure, often a variation of Robert’s Rules of Order. This process helps to ensure that there is the opportunity for all interested persons to address any issue on the agenda, while also helping to maintain a logical structure to the course of the meeting.

Minutes of the meeting are taken even when there is not any action item of particular interest to the general public. The minutes become part of the public records of the city and are available for review by any resident of the municipality. In addition, the minutes from the previous city council meeting are usually read at the beginning of a current meeting. This provides the council and other interested citizens to affirm that the minutes are fully accurate or to note any minor corrections that are required. Once the minutes are considered to be accurate by those assembled, the city council meeting at large approves the minutes and they are added to the public record.

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