Pittsfield City Council considers changes to its rules, including VP election


PITTSFIELD — Election of City Council vice presidents and a public comment session at the start of subcommittee meetings are among changes under consideration as part of an ongoing review of the council's rules and orders.

The council Ordinance and Rules Committee, which is conducting the review with help from city attorney Richard Dohoney, met Monday and will meet again on the topic next month before making amendment recommendations to the full council.

Council President Peter Marchetti, who had asked for a review of the rules under which the council conducts its meetings, proposed the direct election of vice presidents rather than having them nominated or chosen by the president. The issue had been debated under the former council in December, when two councilors asked for a change from the traditional method of having the newly elected president at the first session of the new term simply name the vice president.

At the time, a compromise was reached in which the newly elected president would then nominate a vice president. Ward 6 Councilor John Krol was Marchetti's choice for vice president during the council's organizational meeting on Jan. 4, and he was approved in a subsequent vote.

Marchetti said Monday that direct election of vice presidents was the intent of the 2013 charter study commission, of which he was a member, and the commission included that language in a draft of the new city governmental charter that was approved in November 2013. The 2016 organization meeting was the first under which the new format took effect.

He said Monday that he favors direct election, rather than appointment of the vice presidents by the new president — saying he believes that would keep any political considerations out of the decision.

Councilor at large Melissa Mazzeo, the president during 2014-15 and now the Ordinance and Rules Committee chairwoman, reiterated her prior opposition to election of vice presidents. "I am totally against that," she said, adding, "A president needs someone they can work with ... we don't [separately] elect the vice president of the United States."

Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo agreed, saying he believes the issue was thoroughly debated at the December meeting and the "compromise was better than the original petition [for a change]."

Councilor at large Peter White asked Dohoney if anything would prevent the new president from putting forth a nomination for vice president, and the attorney said, "I'm not aware of any prohibition."

Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers said she saw no problem with having a vice president with some views different from the president, in part because "we are all here to work together" and capable of acting professionally.

Krol said he does not have "a super strong opinion on this," but he would like to see it spelled out in the rules that the president can offer a nomination for vice president.

The committee voted 3-2 to approve the change, subsequent to a review next month after Dohoney has drafted the proposed amendments to council rules.

The other significant change discussed Monday was to allow a public comment session prior to the council committee meetings, such as is now allowed during full council meetings. The concept was approved but the exact wording will be considered more fully at the March committee meeting.

Options discussed were whether any time limit for public comment should be specified, and whether the person would be allowed to speak on any subject. By consensus, the topics allowed would be only those on the committee's budget for that meeting.

Under the rules today, people attending the subcommittee meetings for a particular agenda item are asked to speak by the chairperson, but there is no open comment session at the beginning.

The current city council rules and orders are posted on the Pittsfield website here.

Contact Jim Therrien at 412-496-6247.


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