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City Council Meeting Agendas

This page provides an overview of general requirements and procedures related to city council agendas in Washington State.

Overview

The basic authority for establishing an agenda for city council meetings rests with the city council under its authority to adopt rules of procedure (see RCW 35A.12.120 for noncharter code cities, RCW 35.23.270 for second class cities, and RCW 35.27.280 for towns).

The form an agenda takes may be prescribed by ordinance or resolution, by city council rules, or simply by informal custom and practice. In many cities, preparation of the agenda is delegated to the mayor, city clerk, and/or city administrator, and this system seems to work satisfactorily in most cases. However, it would be possible for the council to establish formal rules and regulations for the preparation of the agenda and to indicate in those rules who may place items on the agenda and how they are to be placed on the agenda.

General Process

Perhaps one of the most crucial items in providing for orderly meetings is a well-organized, well-prepared agenda. A systematic order of business may be the difference between haphazard wrangling and a well-run, well-timed meeting. The agenda must be handled so that councilmembers are given adequate information on items to be considered. They should get that information far enough in advance to give it appropriate study.

State law requires each city and town to establish a procedure for notifying the public of the agenda for forthcoming council meetings (see RCW 35.22.288 for first class cities, RCW 35.23.221 for second class cities, RCW 35.27.300 for towns, and RCW 35A.12.160 for code cities). This advance notice to the public can be accomplished by posting the preliminary agenda in an accessible location. Items on the agenda should be prioritized and organized as efficiently as possible, allocating adequate time to considering major issues while minimizing time spent on routine, trivial, or noncontroversial issues.

While it is not mandatory, the agenda typically provides an opportunity for appropriate public participation. Citizens can be given the opportunity to address the council on other subjects of interest. Occasionally, city councils are criticized for limiting the time allotted for public comments during council meetings but it should be remembered that the council meeting is, first and foremost, a business meeting.  The goal of a council meeting is to conduct the city’s business, not to offer a public forum, and thus, limiting the public comment period is not a violation of the First Amendment. However, this is not to be confused with a public hearing, during which formal public comment is received on a particular issue.

An important consideration in creating a manageable agenda is to include only agenda items that belong there. The formal council agenda is the place in which formal actions will be taken on the part of the governing body. In general, each agenda item should include time to discuss the topic followed by an instrument for council action. Items that are solely for the purpose of informing or advising should be provided to the council outside the formal agenda process. When the agenda is well-managed, it allows for a smooth flow of information to the governing body and creates an efficient process through which this group can consider and craft policy decisions. This makes the entire operation of government run more smoothly and saves a great deal of valuable time.

Examples of a Typical Council Meeting Agenda/Order of Business

There is no required format or particular order for the council meeting agenda. A standard agenda is laid out in the Spokane Valley Governance Manual (Ch.1.B.1.a) and the Burien City Council Meeting Guidelines (Sec.2.6).

Spokane Valley

  • Call to Order 
  • Invocation
  • Pledge of Allegiance
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of Agenda
  • Special Guests & Presentations
  • Councilmember Reports
  • Mayor’s Report
  • Proclamations
  • Public Comments
  • Public Hearings
  • Consent Agenda
  • Unfinished Business
  • New Business
  • Public Comments)
  • Administrative Reports
  • Adjournment 

Burien

  • Call to Order
  • Pledge of Allegiance
  • Roll Call
  • Agenda Confirmation
  • Public Comments
  • Correspondence to the Council
  • Consent Agenda
  • Business Agenda
  • Public Hearings & Discussions
  • Proclamations & Presentations
  • Ordinances and Resolutions
  • Council Reports
  • City Manager Report
  • Executive Session
  • Adjournment

Other standard agendas can be found in the Bothell City Council Protocol Manual (Sec.8.09) and the Woodland City Council Rules of Procedure (Sec. 5.1).

Bothell

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Meeting Agenda Approval
  • Review Projected Agenda
  • Special Presentations
  • Consent Agenda
  • Visitors
  • Award of Contract
  • Boards and Commissions
  • Old Business
  • Ordinances and Resolutions
  • Public Hearings, Public Meetings, Open- and Closed-Record Review
  • New Business
  • Executive Session
  • Reports
  • Addressing the Council (e.g. public comments)
  • Adjournment

Woodland

  • Call to Order
  • Pledge of Allegiance
  • Roll Call
  • Presentations, Proclamations
  • Citizen Communications (for items not on agenda)
  • Citizen Communications (for items on agenda)
  • Agenda Approval
  • Public Hearings
  • Reports of City Officer
  • Reports of Standing Committees
  • Reports of Ad Hoc Committees
  • Consent Agenda
  • Action Items
  • Adjournment

The Consent Agenda and Its Role in the Council Meeting

The consent agenda is a tool used to streamline council meeting procedures by collecting and grouping routine, noncontroversial topics into a single agenda item that can be discussed and passed with a single motion and vote. In some cities, items to be placed on each consent agenda are selected at a meeting of the city’s department heads. In other cities, a special agenda committee chooses the consent items. Commonly, no debate is allowed on items included in the consent agenda.

Consent items may be read by title only in the body of a single consent agenda resolution. However, any councilmember can have an item removed from the consent agenda for separate consideration. In addition, cities may allow any person attending the regular council meeting to request that an item be removed from the consent agenda, read completely, and voted on independently. In such a situation, the remainder of the consent agenda can be voted on, omitting the challenged items. Setting up a consent agenda system usually requires preliminary action by the council in the form of adopting an ordinance or resolution.

Sample Council Rules of Procedure for Agenda Preparation

Most cities outline their procedures for agenda preparation in their council procedure manuals. You can see many examples on our Council/Board of Commissioners Rules of Procedures page.

 

Last Modified: August 31, 2018