Council Committee Structure
When City Council reduced its size from 13 members down to 11 members, then finally down to the current size of 9 members it did away with its long-standing committee structure. This change, while well-intended at the time, removed City Council members from an important aspect of forming city policy, which I believe you, the voters of Winchester elected us to be a part of.
City Council has no standing Budget Committee, no Agenda Review Committee, no Public Safety Committee, no Public Works Committee, no Economic Develop Committee, or any other committee.
Information presented at a City Council meeting is only vetted by the President of Council, City Manager, and City staff. You as citizens only get to Elect one of those three individuals, and technically you do not elect the Council President, that is left up to the nine-member body.
Rather than focus on the many complex issues facing City Government such as Budgets, Economic Development, Public Works, or Firefighter pay and benefits, current City leadership instead chose to focus on issues such as passing a Standards of Decorum versus having a discussion about bringing back certain standing committees to City Council.
Please take a moment to consider all that Winchester is facing as a city, and then read the Standards of Decorum that was passed by a 5-4 party-line vote and ask yourself what kind of government do you want representing you? One that is free to debate the issues using common sense, or one that is more concerned with Public Relations and politically correct messaging?
At a minimum, the next City Council needs to take back control of the budget and become more involved in the budget-making process by re-instituting a Budget Committee. The budget is a complex document and elected officials should spend more time on it to fully understand the complexities and make appropriate recommendations.
With no budget committee in place, it's unbelievable that we set the tax rate before we see the line-item budget. That is akin to paying a bill before you know what you are buying. Furthermore, the lack of a basic committee structure is problematic when it comes to solving complex issues such as Firefighter pay and benefits that simply cannot be fully understood under the current scenario - Work Session, First Reading, Second Reading.
City Council recently approved a $37 million bond package that will be paid back over 30-years for much needed Public Works projects. Shouldn't we as elected officials be more involved in how we spend $37 million of your money by having large expenditures like this vetted by a committee of City Council members who have been elected by you, the people?
We each have unique backgrounds in areas such as Finance, Engineering, Construction, Social Services, Non-Profits, Small Business Management, and related fields where that expertise could be beneficial, depending on the nature of the Committee.
It's hard to believe that given all the challenges facing City Government – Budgets, Public Safety, Economic Development, Public Works Projects, etc., that we continue to operate without at least some basic standing committees to deal with the most important issues facing Winchester.