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Traditionally, the one committee meeting attended by most, and sometimes all, councilmembers was the meeting of the City Council's Finance Committee, which were held at 3:30 p.m. Monday, before the 4:45 p.m. Committee of the Whole meeting. The Finance Committee made recommendations on anything that required spending money.
Sims retained the Finance Committee meeting, since most councilmembers show up for it anyway, but it will now be, according to High Point
City Clerk Lisa Vierling, a "Committee of the Whole finance meeting," run by Sims, instead of a separate Finance Committee chairman and all members will be required to attend.
Sims said, "Based on the number of the new individuals on the council, we go to Committee of the Whole, so everyone will be able to get all the information and participate in making all the decisions."
Sims also told the councilmembers to keep their Thursday mornings free for Committee of the Whole meetings and manager's briefings. She said, "I would ask that you all block this time on your calendars on the front end so you don't get surprised when there's a meeting at that time."
The new system pretty much guarantees Thursday morning meetings one week, a committee of the whole meeting, the next, a city manager's briefing.
Sims justified the new system, particularly the Thursday morning meetings, based on the number of new councilmembers. She said, "That's part of the learning curve, and if you're not at those meetings, you're in danger of missing things."
The new system was obviously arranged before Thursday's meeting.
Mendenhall said that, if there were only a couple of spending items on the City Council's agenda, the "Committee of the Whole finance committee" might not have to meet.
"We will give you notice prior to that," she said. "We can do that in council meetings."
Note the "we," which may be an early sign that Mendenhall may wind up in the voting majority Sims will have to assemble if she is to accomplish much as mayor.
Boynton, too, knew in advance about the abolishment of the committees.
"Bernita and I talked about this," he said. "We thought it might be helpful for the new councilmembers, who wanted to know when we really meet ... to give some times so that we don't just meet willy-nilly."
Councilmember Foster Douglas asked how the new system would allow the City Council to do in-depth research on issues of the sort done by the traditional committees.
Sims responded that it would work much the same way, but at Thursday meetings which raises the likelihood of very long Thursday meetings.
"I will chair those meetings," she said. "It will come before the committee of the whole. The only difference is there is not a set, different committee that handles that issue."
The City Council voted 8 to 1 to elect At-Large Councilmember Britt Moore mayor pro tem. Douglas, who has more seniority than Moore, cast the only no vote. Foster said that recent City Council practice has been to elect a senior councilmember mayor pro tem.
"Every since I've been on the council, it was either you, Latimer or Chris, who were the three senior members of the council," Douglas protested to Sims. "Nobody else was even put up."
Sims said it used to be a requirement that the mayor pro tem be an at-large councilmember, but that was changed several years ago. In any case, she said, "This council makes the decision on how this council wants it to work."
Douglas, who, along with former Ward 3 Councilmember Mike Pugh, who Mendenhall defeated in November, was definitely not part of Smothers' voting bloc, is shaping up to be a thorn in Sims' side, as he was in Smothers'. Whether or not he is joined by any new councilmembers remains to be seen.
Sims has said she will also set up three mayor's commissions commissions of private citizens to advise the council. She said there will be three committees: one on youth, family and community issues; one on culture and the arts; and one to bring "millennials" High Point
citizens between 18 and 35, who are largely disconnected from the political process into the process.
Sims has not specified how the mayor's commissions will work.