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 is discussed.
1. The Chamber of Commerce presented our local Alabama Small Business Award winners.
Michelle Epling, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, presented our local winners for Alabama's 2022 Small Business Award winners. Virtuoso Realty Group received a bronze award for Emerging Small Business of the Year. Investor's Resource received a silver award for Small Business of the Year with 1-10 Employees. Signalink received a silver award for Small Business of the Year with 51-100 Employees.
2. The city attorney clarified that if Madison shifted to a Council-manager form of government, the mayor would be a voting member of the City Council.
There is contradictory information being shared about how Madison's government would work if we shifted to a council-manager form of government. Some are saying the mayor would not have a vote as a council member, and some are saying that the mayor would get to vote under a council-manager style of government. The latter has been relayed by the city attorney, the city's former attorney, Council President Bartlett, the committee appointed by the mayor to study this possible transition, and the leaders of Madison Forward, the group working to get this shift on a ballot. The former is being presented by a few residents who are opposed to this transition.
At the end of public comments, the city attorney spoke and clarified that the mayor would serve as Council president and be a voting member of Council. Dr. Terri Johnson, a leader of Madison Forward, spoke ahead of the attorney to state that the Alabama Council-manager Act of 1982 is the law the city is following. That is also the law that is referenced in the petition Madison Forward is using. She stated that the section that suggests the mayor would not be a voting member comes from a 1991 act, and that it is only applicable to cities that already had a council-manager form of government in 1991.
I Vote Madison sent an email to the city attorney, Council President Bartlett, and the mayor last week to request the exact laws that pertain to our city and its possible governance transition and have them explained to us. The city attorney said he would pull that together for us. We have seen snippets posted on social media by those who oppose the transition, and those contain different sections of different laws and are being used to support the claim that the mayor would not be a voting member of Council.
We want voters to see the laws that are applicable to Madison in their entirety. In our email, we also told the city that we think it would be beneficial for them to make the laws available on the city's website. It is ultimately up to the voters of Madison to decide if Madison transitions to a council-manager form of government. Voters must decide if this is the best path forward. Contradictory information pertaining to how the transition would actually work, and additional claims that the city is not following state law, are muddying the waters and derailing people from discussing the merits or problems of such a government. We think the basic information needs to be firmly established and presented to citizens so they can think about and discuss the transition using accurate information.
3. The mayor announced that there will be no Christmas parade this year.
The Madison Christmas Parade was scheduled for Saturday, December 10, 2022. After postponing it until the following day due to the weather, the parade was once again called off because there were not enough participants. The mayor announced during the Council meeting that the parade will not be happening this year. Residents are disappointed, but even before the event's cancellation, people were sharing their unhappiness about the parade route. The parade was scheduled to go down Hughes Road. Some residents want the parade route to go through downtown (Church Street to either Front Street or Main Street). Tammy Hall, owner of Main Street Cafe, spoke on behalf of the other businesses downtown, stressing that the parade brings people to the downtown area that normally would not visit. The crowds bring visibility to those businesses. The mayor said they will be discussing the route before next year's parade.
[View the public comment related to the parade here.]
4. There was a first reading of a proposed ordinance that would allow virtual meeting participation by the mayor and Council.
The city attorney presented the first official reading of proposed Ordinance 2022-326, which pertains to city council procedures. An updated Alabama code, 35-26-a-5.2, will allow the mayor and council members to participate (and vote) in meetings remotely via Zoom, telephone, etc... if they are unable to attend due to illness. Stipulations include that a quorum of the council must be present in person and that residents who attend meetings are able to hear the person who is joining remotely.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Governor Kay Ivey delivered a proclamation allowing entire councils to meet virtually. They were only able to vote on issues remotely if they related to the pandemic or "essential city business."
I Vote Madison championed the city to extend this option to residents as well. We thought residents should be able to deliver public comments, even if they were not able to be there in person. The city began using Zoom during meetings to allow residents to deliver comments remotely. The city stopped allowing this option when the first wave of Covid died down. The governor reissued a proclamation after the Delta wave began, but the city did not opt to continue meeting virtually or allow citizens to participate remotely.
It is still our opinion that the city should make virtual public participation available to citizens via Zoom, telephone, etc... We are not aware of any law that prevents residents from participating remotely. There are many reasons why a resident might not be able to be at a council meeting in person to deliver public comments or comments during a public hearing. Disabled individuals are supposed to be afforded accommodations that allow them to participate in ways that are as equal as possible to non-disabled residents. The city allows residents to submit comments via email, but if there are ways for disabled individuals to remotely participate so that their comments are read with their own voice, we think it should be utilized.
5. There was a first reading of a proposed ordinance to allow medical marijuana dispensaries within Madison.
The city attorney presented the first official reading of proposed Ordinance 2022-327, which would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within Madison City limits. Two residents spoke in opposition to this ordinance during public comments. To learn details about how a medical marijuana dispensary would operate within Madison, you may view the city's recording of the last work session. At that session, the city attorney, the planning department, and Police Chief Gandy presented information.
[View the public comments related to this ordinance here.]