To keep you engaged while saving you time, I Vote Madison is now bringing you some of the highlights from City Council meetings. The videos displayed below each recap highlight will take you to the exact moment where the topic listed is discussed.
1. The city attorney clarified for residents that not all public hearings require an opportunity for comments from residents.
I Vote Madison and at least one resident reached out to Council after the last city council meeting to question why a public comment section was not attached to the public hearing about a change in the funding agreement for Town Madison. One resident spoke about it at this meeting (11/28/22) during public comments to ask if the rules of order for meetings had changed.
The city attorney clarified that based on Alabama law, not all public hearings require an opportunity for the public to comment. An example he provided of a type of hearing in which a public comment section is required is when a public hearing deals with a zoning change. The lawyer said the rules of order had not changed and that the hearing at the last meeting about the funding agreement did not require a comment period per Alabama statutes.
2. The vote by Council on the bid for the new community center was postponed until after an upcoming Council Work Session.
Approving the $11,205,460 bid for the proposed community center was on the agenda for this Council meeting, but it has been postponed until after Council has a work session. A spirited discussion between the Mayor and council took place. Some council members expressed that they needed more time before voting. Some expressed the need to see and agree on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) before approving the bid. The council may vote on whether to approve spending for the community center at a special session that would occur after the November 30 work session. Update: The council postponed approval of the bid for the second time. They will convene soon during a special session to address it.
3. Council President Bartlett confirmed for residents that the mayor can vote while serving as the City Council President under a Council-Manager form of government.
Council President Bartlett addressed the issue of citizens "asserting falsely" online and in person that if Madison transitioned to a Council-Manager form of government that the mayor would not get a vote while serving as the Council President. She said she had spoken to the city attorney and confirmed for residents that the mayor can vote as a member of the Council while serving as the City Council President under a Council-Manager form of government.
She said the contradictory information that is being relayed by some has been pulled from the 1981 Alabama Council-Manager Act instead of the 2018 Act that the city is following. Council President Bartlett stated that the city attorney had previously provided this same information to those making those claims.
Some words from I Vote Madison:
We have also seen contradictory information posted online that is coming from citizens who vocally oppose the governance transition (by contradictory we mean information that is different from what the current city lawyer, the former city lawyer, the mayor, state laws, and other professionals have stated). We have seen these same people also repeatedly make false allegations about anyone who asks questions, attempts to provide clarification, or corrects contradictory information. Statements that call into question a person's character have also been made. I Vote Madison has been at the end of this ourselves. Council President Bartlett addressed two accusatory questions about herself that had been directed at her during the public comments portion of the meeting. These questions, which she answered, attacked not only her personal character but the character of a family member.
It has been alleged that our organization, and our leaders individually, are behind the push for this different form of government and are misleading citizens. We want to make it clear that our organization is nonpartial on whether a city manager form of government is the right form of government for the city of Madison, and any information our organization publishes is not designed to sway the citizens of Madison to support or oppose one structure of government over the other.
I Vote Madison's vision is a Madison shaped by citizens. Each citizen has the ability to decide for themselves whether to support or not support it and how they choose to vote if it makes it onto a ballot. We want to make sure citizens have information so they can make informed decisions.
The information/education we provide, which includes the Q&A and citizen debate we hosted, is designed to objectively inform. We think the citizens of Madison deserve to know what their city is doing, what information the city is presenting, and what their leaders are saying. We have always sought to fill in gaps relating to voting and civic engagement. If the city's efforts to relay information and engage residents are lacking in our view, we take action. We do this by posting in various ways on various social media platforms in an effort to reach more residents. Any advocacy we have done around this issue has been directed at our city leaders. On behalf of residents, we have championed the city to make sufficient efforts to inform and engage citizens around this issue and keep them posted on any updates as this process unfolds. As such, we are currently looking at how we might provide additional educational opportunities. We think the city should take additional efforts as well, and we will be making this request to them. We already have plans to host a citizen debate if the issue makes it onto the ballot.
The co-founders and other leaders of I Vote Madison have not personally expressed that they support this transition. They have, however, shared in public forums, that they as individuals do have some concerns.
As a 501(c)3 organization, I Vote Madison is, per the IRS, not allowed to tell people who to vote for or how to vote on a particular measure. We are not affiliated with any political party and must remain nonpartisan based on federal government guidelines. We established I Vote Madison so that we could get residents engaged and participating in our municipal government, which is also nonpartisan.
As an organization that was created to provide resources that empower residents and to narrow the political polarization and divisive political rhetoric and tactics within our own community, we are saddened at how nasty the issue of the possible transition has become at times. We are pleased to see residents asking so many questions and engaging in the issue, and we hope to see more voters having discussions with one another without the use of inflammatory partisan talking points, false assertions, and especially defamatory attacks on anyone's character.
4. An ordinance was approved for a diversion program for first-time offenders.
The city attorney presented the second reading of a proposed ordinance that would establish a diversion program for first-time offenders. Council unanimously approved the ordinance.
5. An ordinance was approved to create an Arts & Entertainment District in Town Madison.
The planning department presented the second reading of an ordinance that would create an Arts & Entertainment District in Town Madison. Arts & Entertainment districts allow individuals to purchase alcohol from inside a retailer and carry it outside and consume it within the boundaries of that district. Huntsville has more than one Arts & Entertainment district, and they are often referred to as "purple cup" areas since patrons are given purple cups to carry their alcohol. The Town Madison cups will be kelly green. The ordinance was approved by a majority vote by Council. Councilperson Denzine voiced concerns about the district being in such close proximity to residential areas, and she voted against it.