Behind the Scenes at a City Council Meeting

Have you ever attended a City Council Meeting or seen it on TV?  If not, I encourage you to visit us anytime on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month.  I am often asked what happens at the meetings and what happens behind closed doors.  This discussion is to give you some insight on how City decisions are made and the opportunities our citizens have to be heard.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What happens when you go into Executive Session?

Each City meeting starts with an Executive Session which is behind closed doors. Frisco follows Open Government Laws, which states that we need to make our decisions in the public realm.  However, there are certain exemptions.  There are certain discussions that would place the City in an unfavorable negotiation position if it were discussed in public.  Common discussions relate to the purchase of property and discussions with our attorney.  Final agreements will be approved in open public, but you can imagine how difficult it would be for a City to conduct business if some of this information was made public too early for competing cities and other interested parties to know.  More information regarding Executive Sessions

Do you discuss how you are going to vote before you do it in public?

This is a common misconception for many people who think we have our decisions made before we publicly vote.  The Open Records rules do not allow us to conduct public business outside of the public realm.  Council members are prohibited from having discussions of city business outside of our public meetings.  In fact, none of us knows the other Council Member’s positions until we vote on the matters during our meetings. Many times the vote can be a surprise as the actual vote goes differently from what we expected.  We all make our decisions independently and often times, our minds are not made up until the vote actually takes place.  Coming to the meeting and voicing your opinion can literally change the outcome of the vote if Council members agree with your arguments.  We encourage citizens to come to the meetings and speak their minds….you may just change our opinion!

How long do the meetings last?

This depends on the agenda and how controversial it is.  We have had some last well past midnight.  However, the average meeting ends at 10pm.

How do you prepare for the meeting?

The Council packets are delivered to our homes the Thursday night prior to each meeting.  The packets can many times be over 1,000 pages in length.  I will usually scan all of the topics on Thursday evening or Friday morning to see if there are any that require extensive research, outside of the supporting information provided by staff.  I then read all agenda items and note any questions I have.  My goal is to have all questions to staff by Monday morning to allow them a full day to get them answered.  Depending on the agenda items, I may send e-mails or make calls to citizens I know have an interest in the topic for their opinions.  I will also make site visits to important Planning and Zoning discussions or any location referenced in the packet.  Tuesday, the day of the meeting, I make a final review of the packet to make sure I have all of my questions answered and I am prepared for each agenda item.

There are many questions asked by Council Members, why do they not ask staff before the meeting?

Many times, we will ask staff questions we have already received answers to.  We do that for questions we think many citizens may have so they can be answered in a public setting.  They will also be asked if we feel staff did not convey something important in their presentation.

Other times, discussion from a citizen or comments made by another Council Member can create additional discussion.  These can create additional questions for staff that we did not ask them before the meeting.  Our staff is always well prepared to answer questions on the fly.  They are also not afraid to tell us they do not have the answer and will have to get back to us with the requested information.

Do you enjoy the Council Meetings?

Yes, many Council Members get that “game-day rush.”  Most meetings will have controversial topics and the meetings can be very exciting.  Since Frisco is less than 50% developed, there are also many exciting decisions to be made that will shape the future of the City. I, along with most of the other Council Members, always have a difficult time coming down from the excitement of the meeting and getting some sleep.  The Wednesday morning after a meeting I generally sleep in a little later than I normally would to recover from the late Council meeting.

How can citizens voice their opinions?

There are many ways citizens communicate their opinions.  Many will e-mail or call us with their opinions.  We also allow citizen feedback during our discussion topics.  Each meeting, we also have citizen input at 7:30.  This is a time that citizens can address the Council on any topic they wish.

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