Charlottesville City Council will hold an all-day retreat Wednesday to discuss City Manager Tarron Richardson’s first two months in office, the management of council meetings and communication between councilors.
The meeting agenda appears more focused than council’s last retreat. In December, councilors weaved between team-building exercises and airing grievances with each other, the media and people who address them at meetings.
Wednesday’s retreat will kick off with Richardson’s recap of the 80 days since he started in mid-May.
Assistant City Manager Mike Murphy will discuss the city’s data sources.
Councilors Kathy Galvin and Heather Hill will discuss the roles and responsibilities of the mayor, councilors and the city manager. The two also will focus on “revisiting/refining” inter-council protocols.
Communication between councilors was a sticking point at the last retreat. Some councilors were dismayed that their interactions or criticisms of each other would be posted online.
At the end of the last retreat, a facilitator proposed eight ground rules to guide council interactions, but councilors only agreed to one — “seek clarification.”
Councilor and former mayor Mike Signer will discuss collective management of council meetings. Signer, who caught flak for his handling of public comment leading up to the Aug. 12, 2017, Unite the Right rally, has been critical of meeting conduct under current Mayor Nikuyah Walker and the topic was discussed in December.
“To do the work of council, we need to be a deliberative body,” Galvin said in December. “If the public doesn’t like one of the ideas being expressed, it ends up creating tension and distractions and noise.”
Speakers at council meetings sometimes exceed their three-minute time limit, and shouts and outbursts from audience members are common.
Walker has said she allows leeway in public comment because meetings have historically not been a place for underrepresented segments of the community to speak.
“Everything that we’re talking about, especially on council, we’re dealing with a white male perspective — what is considered to be civil, those kind of things,” she said in December.
After lunch, Richardson will review the protocols for communications between councilors, the city manager and staff.
Hill, Clerk of Council Kyna Thomas and city spokesman Brian Wheeler are scheduled to go over the role and scope of the city’s boards and commissions.
By mid-afternoon, the group is expected to address the city’s short-term goals. The meeting agenda lists several goals, including an efficiency study; finishing the Comprehensive pPan update and zoning code rewrite; updating the city’s website; improving customer service; and hiring a director of equity and inclusion.
The retreat will be followed by a closed session to discuss personnel matters.
The retreat is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, Classroom A, 233 Fourth St. NW.