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Posts by Ann G. Macfarlane

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

April 1, 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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Meeting Discussion: When Should You Interrupt a Speaker?

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

We see so many instances of rude behavior in public life today that it is not easy to keep our bearings about civility. Polite people who have been well brought up sometimes feel stymied when public discourse disintegrates. It might be helpful to review some circumstances in which people should be interrupted.

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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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Who May Raise a Point of Order?

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

Over the years of working with parliamentary procedure I've found that there is a lot of confusion about the motion "point of order." In essence, when a person says "point of order" he is making a claim that there has been some procedural mistake. In his view, something has been done incorrectly, and it ought to be straightened out.

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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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Do We Have to Obey the Mayor?

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

After a dozen years in this business, it seems to me that questions of authority are some of the hardest to resolve. Over and over I find city councils, boards of directors, and other governing boards struggling with the question, "Who's in charge here, anyway?" If a group understands certain fundamental principles, it becomes much easier to resolve those tensions and move forward effectively.

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