When does maybe mean yes?

Published on Thu, Nov 8, 2001 by Meg Olson

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When does maybe mean yes?

By Meg Olson

When Blaine city council meets again on Monday they’ll be playing by a different set of rules.

Under the rules of conduct for council meetings adopted at the October 22 city council meeting, not voting or refusing to vote will not swing the vote either way – it just won’t count.

“An abstention should not be considered an affirmative vote,” explained city attorney Jon Sitkin Existing council rules, he said, call for a refusal to vote or an abstention to be converted to an affirmative vote. Sitkin suggested they count abstentions with the nays, which would have the effect of at least not letting a 2-2 vote with two abstentions become a victory when there was no majority favoring the proposal. “If a vote’s going to happen let it be a majority or let it fail,” he said.

“Generally if I abstain I don’t have a strong opinion. I’m undecided,” said Frank Bresnan Jr. “Why can’t we keep the abstaining vote as a zero. Let me cast my vote and don’t change my opinion.”

Council and staff agreed that the kind of situation they were preparing for rarely happened, with half or more council members absent or not voting. No one could recall an incidence in the last ten years where the rules being considered would have been invoked to decide a vote. “These rules are trying to guide conduct for a more divisive council,” Sitkin said. The resolutions also contain rules for attendance, decorum and how to run council meetings.

City manager Gary Tomsic suggested the rules be modified to reflect that a majority of quorum, four members, needed to vote aye for a measure to pass, and that absences or abstentions didn’t count. “To me it makes sense. If you have four votes and it’s three to one the motion carries,” he said.
Council members who were absent or didn’t vote would have one more chance to bring the matter back at the next meeting.

City council approved the new version of the rules unanimously..

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