Council eyes ‘off-site’ meetings

Published 3:49 pm Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Washington’s City Council wants more information before deciding whether to conduct some council meetings at places other than City Hall on a somewhat regular basis.
Council member William Pitt put the issue before the council at its meeting Monday at City Hall, also known as the Municipal Building. Pitt believes conducting such meetings would be a step toward enhancing open government. Such meetings would be less intimidating than formal council meetings at City Hall and give the public and elected officials better one-on-one time, Pitt said. Pitt also suggested city officials consider not dressing as formally for the “off-site” meetings. Except on rare occasions, the mayor, council members and top city officials usually wear suits or sports coats and ties to council meetings.
The Washington Civic Center and community centers at some public housing complexes could be sites where council meetings could be conducted, according to city officials.
“We’d be able to visit those areas and get that population involved (with city government) as well,” Pitt said of the community centers.
Mayor Archie Jennings and Councilman Richard Brooks said they have no problem with conducting some council meetings at other locations in the city, but they would prefer to wear business attire rather than dress less formally.
“I, personally, like the (council) chambers myself, but I’ll do whatever the council says,” said Councilman Edward Moultrie Jr., who also said he prefers to wear business attire at council meetings.
Brooks said he likes the idea of “off-site” meetings providing more open government and allowing elected officials and the public to get to know one another better.
“I think when people meet you one on one in their surroundings, sometimes they open up more,” Brooks said.
City Manager Josh Kay said he would survey facilities in the city that would meet the requirements (space needs and audio-visual equipment) to be able to host a council meeting, then provide the council with a list of facilities that meet those requirements and schedule for “off-site” meetings.
“I think this is just another way to bring our city to the public and to bring government to the public on a level they would feel more comfortable speaking to us away from this venue (City Hall),” Pitt said.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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