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Who sets the agenda for your planning board meetings? How are decisions made about the order, public comment, and other important matters? Do you allot specific times or just go with the flow? In other words, does your agenda work for you as well as it should?
If your planning board uses its agenda as a tool to efficient and productive meetings, these questions may seem elementary and even foolish. But if you are one of many whose agenda is either inadequate or even an impediment to effective meetings, it may be wise to consider how your agenda can be improved.
The agenda is the template for your meetings. It should be developed thoughtfully so that the planning board has adequate time for matters that require attention and/or decisions and less time for “housekeeping” or more routine subjects. It should delineate plainly when public comment is invited and the actions expected of each item (review only; action; referral, etc.)
Many commissions leave the agenda writing to staff and may see it for the first time when they come to the meeting. This does not serve you or the public well. The best approach is for the chair, or a committee of your board, to review the agenda before it is final and for commissioners to receive it and any backup materials several days in advance.
Upcoming agendas should also be posted in public places, such as your town or city hall. A growing number of communities are also posting coming meeting agendas on their Web sites. …
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Elaine Cogan, founding principal of the Portland, Oregon planning and communications firm of Cogan Owens Cogan, has consulted for more than 36 years with communities undertaking strategic planning and visioning processes. Cogan has been honored for her work on a variety of citizen involvement projects.