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MRSC Insight Blog


Posts by Ann G. Macfarlane

Successful Staff Interaction in Local Government Meetings

Successful Staff Interaction in Local Government Meetings

April 29, 2019 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Legislative Body

This MRSC Insight blog offers a few suggestions on how to structure successful staff participation in a council meeting. 

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Point of Order and Appeal Are the Heart of Democracy

Point of Order and Appeal Are the Heart of Democracy

February 11, 2019 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Legislative Body

This blog post answers the question: What is a Point of Order and how do I use it? 

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Meeting Discussion: When Should You Interrupt a Speaker?

Meeting Discussion: When Should You Interrupt a Speaker?

December 27, 2018 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

Under Robert's Rules, there are significant instances in which a board member or councilmember should be interrupted during a meeting in order to preserve preserve politeness and fairness for all.

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Do We Have to Obey the Mayor?

Do We Have to Obey the Mayor?

July 23, 2018 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

Under Robert's Rules of Order and common parliamentary law the presiding officer of a governing body has certain rights — but so too do councilmembers, county commissioners, and directors of special districts — and no one has the authority to dominate the group.

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Four Bad Habits to Avoid at Council Meetings

Four Bad Habits to Avoid at Council Meetings

February 9, 2018 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

There are a number of “urban myths” about Robert’s Rules of Order that can get in the way of democratic process for your council. If these errors happen at your meetings, address them and improve your processes. 

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How Well Do You Walk this Meeting Tightrope?

How Well Do You Walk this Meeting Tightrope?

February 25, 2016 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

Chairing a meeting requires two skills that are not easy to combine. The presider has to control the meeting, which requires strength. At the same time, he has to remain emotionally connected to the members, which requires warmth. Put too much strength into your voice, and you come across as cold and uncaring. Put too much warmth into your delivery, and you seem weak. Walking this tightrope tak...

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When Public Comment is Challenging

December 19, 2014 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Public Participation , Council-Commission Advisor

This fall I had the privilege of working with planning directors from across the state at their 25th annual conference in Chelan, Washington. Our focus was on keeping things on track when folks are rude, crude or confused, particularly during public comment sessions. At the end of the day, I asked the participants to share the most valuable thing they had learned from our work together.

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The First Amendment Is Not the Last Word

March 31, 2014 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Appearance of Fairness , Council-Commission Advisor

In this country today, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is the foundation of our civil liberty. The freedoms that it lists are crucial to our society. When we read accounts of how these freedoms, in other nations, can be abridged, limited or ignored, we react with horror. And yet it is also important to acknowledge that in the matter of free speech, the First Amendment is not...

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Take it Back, We've Changed Our Mind!

October 1, 2012 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Legislative Body , Council-Commission Advisor

In our work with councils, special districts and other public bodies, we often encounter confusion about how a group can change an action that it has taken. For small groups like most councils, it's easy. Here is some information that will simplify the matter, based on Robert's Rules of Order, 11th edition ("Robert"). Bear with me if it seems a bit technical - we predict that understanding...

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Should Our Council Adopt Robert's Rules of Order?

March 1, 2012 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

We believe that Robert's Rules still provides the best and most useful set of rules of order for civic bodies in our state - provided that folks are willing to do a little work and learn how to use Robert's Rules properly.

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Using the Round Robin Method for Efficient Council Meetings

March 1, 2012 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

The simplest way to make city council meetings more efficient is to use the round robin method of discussion. Sometimes, however, it's harder to employ this method than it seems. These are our tips for successful use of the round robin.

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How Much Should a Mayor Talk at Meetings?

March 1, 2012 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

One of the challenges that faces newly elected mayors is knowing how much they should speak at meetings. It can be a challenge to adapt to the requirements of running council meetings.

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Less Is More: Action Minutes Serve the City Best

March 1, 2012 by Ann G. Macfarlane
Category: Council-Commission Advisor

If your council, commission or committee takes detailed minutes of your meetings, we recommend switching to action minutes. Action minutes record what is done at a meeting and not what is said.

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