Jan 28, 2022 - News

Des Moines City Council clashes over new meeting rules

A photo of the Des Moines City Council.

Indira Sheumaker, upper right, is the newest member of the Des Moines City Council. Photos courtesy of the city of Des Moines

New meeting rules approved by the Des Moines City Council this week are being misinterpreted, Connie Boesen, the councilperson who proposed some of them, told Axios.

  • Yes but: The newest council member argues the changes are part of an effort to silence her.

Driving the news: The council made a number of changes to its procedural rules Monday, including that:

  • Council members can no longer speak on more than four consent agenda items — those approved in one block vote — without a majority approval of the council.
  • And motions must now be seconded to proceed with discussion.

What they're saying: Indira Sheumaker — a civil rights advocate who took office this month — said during Monday's meeting that the timing of the changes are "very suspect."

  • The Des Moines Register's editorial board wrote this week that the changes insult the public, especially Sheumaker's constituents.

Meanwhile, Randy Evans, director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, warned that the move could lead to a voter backlash, as happened about five years ago in Muscatine.

The other side: Boesen told Axios the rules are intended to create a better-run meeting that fosters collaboration.

  • She said every metro city already requires motions be seconded for further consideration.
  • The collective amount of time for the public to speak before the council increased to an hour double what it was at some points last year, she added.

Flashback: National calls for police reform after the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis resulted in contentious DSM meetings, including one that lasted 14 hours. Others were disrupted by internet trolls.

  • Individual speakers sometimes had less than a minute to raise issues or share concerns under older rules.

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