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Thread: Public meeting minutes

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Public meeting minutes

    I'm sure a lot of other Cyburbians have to type up the minutes for their various boards and commissions. I think writing verbatim minutes is a task best assigned to stenographers and not planners - better yet why not rely on tapes or other recorded media instead of transcripts for this.
    Summary minutes are always fun, though, as you get to decide what to say or not to say for posterity's sake - kinda like instant revisionist history. Moments like "Staff, could you tell the board what the maximum allowable units for a parcel 6.72 acres and with 912 feet of frontage would be? Uuuuuh, ummm lemme see, uuuh it looks like it would be around uh 50 or so apartment units, um, oh wait they've got two adjacent lots....let's see, that would be uh 57?" becomes: "The chair inquired of staff what the maximum allowable units for a parcel 6.72 acreas and with 912 feet of frontage would be. Staff responded 57."
    Someone reading the report 10 years later will no doubt look in awe upon staff's quiet efficiency in having those answers right at their fingertips.

    What's really funny is reverse engineering citizens' comments. 20 minute long profanity laced redneck tirades filled with veiled threats, analogies comparing city practices to 1930's Germany and railing against the evils of 'guvmint' translate into "Mr. Smith of 123 Main street stated he was in opposition to the plan as it did not adquately take into account neighboring residents needs."
    Anyone else have this pleasant task?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    Yes, I am operating in a secretary/assistant free environment where a significant portion of my time is spent doing paperwork. If they really want to pay me the "big bucks" to push paper around instead of getting someone else for this stuff, I guess that's ok with me, but it's not the best use of my time.

    Anyway, I produce detailed minutes because I've had them scrutinized in court before, so I know how important it is to reasonable reflect the conversation. Minutes that are overly boiled down don't carry the essence of the boards discussion and decision and therefore make decisions vulnerable. I also recently had the newspaper call to verify who said what at a meeting and fortunately the minutes clearly reflected this. The paper had to print a correction because a sensitive quote was attributed to the wrong person.
    "And all this terrible change had come about because he had ceased to believe himself and had taken to believing others. " - Leo Tolstoy

  3. #3
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    (snip). Moments like "Staff, could you tell the board what the maximum allowable units for a parcel 6.72 acres and with 912 feet of frontage would be? Uuuuuh, ummm lemme see, uuuh it looks like it would be around uh 50 or so apartment units, um, oh wait they've got two adjacent lots....let's see, that would be uh 57?" becomes: "The chair inquired of staff what the maximum allowable units for a parcel 6.72 acreas and with 912 feet of frontage would be. Staff responded 57." (Snip)
    Off-topic:
    What zone are you in? Unless they platted it or added public improvements (streets) I only figure a max of 15 because of frontage requirements... And then still they would not meet state requirements, so it would only be 4 . Unless it is condo's and being rezoned PD and is a block away from a lake and have 1,000 mad lake dwellers


    I have to from time to time when Maister can not make it to the ZBA meetings.

  4. #4
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I don't have to do minutes.....[taunting]nah nah nana nah[/taunting]

    We have people that do that for us, and then I magically get an email with the draft minutes for review.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  5. #5
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    We use both recordings of meetings and written minutes. The written minutes are my "revisionist history" that summarize the discussions of the meeting for quick reference. If anybody wants something more specific, then they get to fill out an open records request and get a CD.

    I hate doing minutes and put them off as long as possible (I write them up based on meeting notes).

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  6. #6
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    I don't have to do minutes.....[taunting]nah nah nana nah[/taunting]

    We have people that do that for us, and then I magically get an email with the draft minutes for review.
    Ditto.

    I have had to take minutes on occasion, but never on a regular basis. Thank god we don't do verbatim minutes like the ZBA does.....their minutes average about 100 pages a month.....
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  7. #7
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    I'm also the City Clerk, nuff said.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by Budgie
    <snip>

    Anyway, I produce detailed minutes because I've had them scrutinized in court before, so I know how important it is to reasonable reflect the conversation. Minutes that are overly boiled down don't carry the essence of the boards discussion and decision and therefore make decisions vulnerable.<snip>
    Dude, that's what the meeting transcript is for. I had the joy of minute writing for nearly 16 years and I've never had a judge question the minutes in relation to the meeting transcript. And like Maister, everybody I liked sounded articulate. I was not so nice with others.
    Last edited by Gedunker; 17 Nov 2004 at 1:13 PM.
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  9. #9
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    I'm also the City Clerk, nuff said.
    The sympathy card is in the mail.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    I had to take minutes a few times for our Trails Advisory Committee when our admin assistant was out. Reading my minutes did have the benefit of inspiring her to write hers with more detail than "Discussion ensued".

  11. #11
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    I'm responsible for the planning board minutes in my current clerical support-free work environment.

    Soon - very soon - I will begin working for an employer that has support staff that does the minutes. And the mailings.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
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  12. #12
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    I haven't taken minutes since being in the new job. We have a whole department devoted to Council and advisory boards, they set up meetings, run the advertisements, attend all the meetings and do the minutes. Love it!

  13. #13
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SGB
    Soon - very soon - I will begin working for an employer that has support staff that does the minutes. And the mailings.
    We've got an intern-type thing from the local high school (he's a senior that wants to go to college and major in public service of some kind) that I've been using as my mailings slave. I just give him the list of property owners and he does the rest.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  14. #14
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    There aren't many cities that record verbatim minutes. In all but one place where I've worked, minutes are summarized. I always had the task of reviewing them to ensure the condensed minutes reflected the intent of those speaking at the meeting. You can be creative with attempting to reflect the mood of the speaker, too -- "Mr. Smith loudly compared the draft comprehensive plan to Mein Kampf" or "Mr Jones described the action using language banned on the airwaves by the FCC" -- without verbatim notes.

    The strangest meeting minutes I saw were those from the 1950s in the small town in Florida were I once worked, trying to gloss over racist language and actions, and one set of minutes from the 1940s in a city which read:

    "The board denied the request 7-0. The applicant told the chair that he was a son of a bitch, and left the chambers."
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  15. #15
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    The private sector is just as bad. We have telephone conversation records and meeting minutes. I fill several of these out daily. We distribute them among team members and to our clients. It also helps "I don't recall ever saying that" syndrome.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    Having followed Budgie in the office here, I will tell you that those boards were completely spoiled with verbatim minutes. That was one of my first arguements with them. Fortunately I won mostly. They were told that if they wanted verbatim that video tapes were available for those that didn't find the first time through the meeting boring enough. If they had to see it again they could watch it. The county counselor also said that was completely reasonable. Then I drafted the edited version. It took months to get them to stop complaining. Most of the complaining was from a board member that had an obsession about the whole process.
    Basically I told them that they never asked me in the interview if I was a stenographer or if I knew short hand so they were going to get what I gave them.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Minutes were a constant problem with a former assistant I eventually fired. A ten minute discussion about a staff recommendation to reject a proposed development might result in $100,000 in infrastructure costs to the city, followed by a motion and vote to reject the project, would come out:

    "The director recommended that the city spend $100,000 to bring in the development. The board voted to approve the project."

    Technically, according to public records laws in that state, none of the debate needed to be included in the minutes. All we had to do was to record the motion and outcome of the vote. (This would have to be recorded correctly, though.)
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  18. #18
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    For a particularly contentious case, one we knew would go to court, we retained a certified court stenographer. "I move to not grant the application" was on the tape. The certified, PAID reporter omitted the word "not" from the transcript.

    'nuff said for transcripts

  19. #19
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    My first job required me to do almost verbatim minutes... I had to gloss over the the grammatical errors and such.

    Once, just because we had a public statement from the biggest redneck in the county, I actually did his tirade "verbatim". Right down to spelling alcohol the way he said it... al-key-hawl. I assumed my boss or the PC would catch it, but neither did. So now it's part of the public record in the county.
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  20. #20
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    I'm sure a lot of other Cyburbians have to type up the minutes for their various boards and commissions. ......
    No, we have admin staff to do that....everywhere I've worked. And never any verbatim. The tapes are there in the event of litigation.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    If I am asked to do that in my current position, that will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

    I do enough of other people's work (mailings, post notices, draft by-laws) that ading minutes will be it.

    I have been the recording secretary for various organizations though. Easy on non contentious issues, but when you know the fan is going to get hit you take a lot better notes and don't get to participate as much in the discussion.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

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