The Ordinance and Rules Committee opted not to recommend a petition setting times and dates of budget hearings as too restrictive.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A City Council subcommittee is divided on the issue of putting new rules in place following some dissatisfaction with this year's recent all-day Saturday budget hearing.
By a 3-2 vote on Monday, the Ordinance and Rules Committee opted not to recommend a petition from Councilors Barry Clairmont and Kevin Morandi to move the council's end-of-fiscal-year budgetary hearing process to a series of weeknight meetings.
Council President Melissa Mazzeo described the petition as "too restrictive" in calling for no less than four budget meetings to occur on evenings between Monday and Thursday no sooner than 10 days after the budget has been released by the mayor.
"Every year is different," said Mazzeo. "To write a council rule to change it is kind of absurd."
"For me it added continuity," said Councilor Kathleen Amuso, who suggested one long Saturday hearing could be restructured somehow to make it more effective. "I think we can work cohesively without this petition."
Morandi disagreed, saying all-day Saturday hearings hampered the process and lessened transparency for the public.
"It's not necessarily about tolerance for the councilors and department heads, as much as it is for the public," agreed Clairmont, who attended but is not a member of the committee.
"I think the one-day budget meeting is not very good for the public," echoed Terry Kinnas, a former School Committee member and the only member of the public to speak on the issue.
Councilor Jonathan Lothrop also agreed with the minority position, citing additional concerns that productivity was reduced the longer the meeting carried on.
"It's very difficult to be in a conversation for that length of time," said Lothrop. "I wholeheartedly agree with this position."
"This year, we had a couple of new councilors, and, in my opinion, on that Saturday there was a lot of questions asked from everyone that really should have been done when you got your budget," said Mazzeo of this year's hearing, which lasted nearly nine hours.
Committee Chairman Christopher Connell agreed with Mazzeo and Amuso.
"We're really boxing ourselves in if this is approved," said Connell. "I think it needs to be left flexible, and be decided by the whole council, through the president."
"The petition as it's written is too constrictive," summarized Mazzeo. "I can't support any of it."
The 3-2 recommendation from the subcommittee will now be passed on to the full council to vote upon at its next meeting.