Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Spurred by the recommendations of one of its members, Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors will consider changing the rules under which its meetings are conducted.
An annual review of meeting rules at the March 19 supervisors meeting was less routine than may have been anticipated. Fifth District Supervisor Steven Madrone is the newest member of the board, having been seated in early January, and he saw room for amending the board’s rules of order.
The board’s current rules reflect the parliamentary procedures of Robert’s Rules of Order. Madrone vouched for a different system, Rosenberg’s Rules of Order, saying it’s more “streamlined” and includes provisions he supports.
Madrone noted that in Rosenberg’s Rules, motions are required for votes to be taken. “Part of that is to prevent squashing of minority opinion,” he said, adding, “I really like minority opinions – maybe that’s because I’m often in the minority.”
“Two months in, and we’re already there? Wow,” interjected Board Chair Rex Bohn.
Points of order
Madrone added that the board’s current rules don’t include the ability to call out points of order to “allow for checking of balance.”
He said rules for the Planning Commission should also be adopted, as “it’s been my discovery that the Planning Commission currently does not have any rules of operation and that seems like an issue that we ought to correct.”
It’s an issue that Madrone has experienced firsthand. When the Planning Commission reviewed General Plan rezonings last November, one commissioner called for a vote on them and Madrone, then supervisor-elect, interrupted from the audience, citing a “point of order” under Robert’s Rules.
When Commission Chair Bob Morris told him to that the commission doesn’t follow Robert’s Rules, Madrone told Morris that he and members of the commission have conflicts of interest related to property ownership.
Madrone had said he’d file complaints with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission about it and that ended the terse exchange.
Commenting on the structure of meeting rules, Bohn was less concerned about specific parliamentary procedure.
“As long as everybody understands what we’re doing a little bit better, I think they’ll be more engaged,” he said, warning against “making it more confusing or adding more rules – Rosenberg and Robert’s and Bob’s and Fred’s rules.”
Bohn added, “Let’s do our work and be cordial when we do it – that’s my rule.”
During a public comment period, self-described “public meeting enthusiast” Kent Sawatzky said he’s concerned about “supervisors lobbying for the cannabis industry” and recommended including lobbying in definitions of conflict of interest.
But cannabis farm operator Thomas Mulder said supervisors should have leeway to respond to industry concerns and become involved in addressing them.
“There’s rumors out there that people leverage their power through your rules but personally, I’ve never seen it or experienced it,” he said.
The early phases of cannabis permitting have been challenging and supervisors have an obligation to work with people to help them through it, he continued.
Since Supervisor Virginia Bass had disagreed with some of Madrone’s recommendations, Supervisor Mike Wilson made a motion to have them comprise an ad hoc committee to review meeting rules and make recommendations on them.
Supervisors also directed staff to develop rules for the planning commission. County Counsel Jeffrey Blanck said the commission is in the process of doing that and supervisors directed staff to follow up on it.
The staff direction and formation of the ad hoc committee were unanimously approved.