The Stockton City Council has approved a policy to ban councilmembers from using cellphones during meetings, part of an attempt to enforce better behavior and manners at council meetings.
In a 5-1 vote on Tuesday night, the council approved a motion recommended by the Council Legislative/Environmental Committee to revise city council policies on how meetings are conducted and the behavior of council members during meetings.
Voting in favor of the motion were councilmembers Burgos Medina, Holman, Tubbs, Zapien, and Vice Mayor Canepa. Mayor Anthony Silva opposed the motion, while Councilmember Miller abstained.
Councilmembers have been under pressure for the use of cellphone in council meetings because it gives the “perception that the council member is not fully engaged in the matter then under discussion,” according to the council committee’s report. However, the new rule would not include other electronic devices.
Mayor Silva agreed with the policy change, saying, “All members should be paying attention to the residents when they come up to speak.” However, he feels the ban should be extended to all electronic devices, including “… anything that has Internet and texting capabilities.”
“[The] council uses iPad’s and members may still use them to access Facebook, Twitter, and email during meetings, ” he said.
While the council committee recognized this concern, it argued that “the benefit of using such devices to access agenda materials (and thereby eliminating the need to print agenda materials) outweighed the potential for abuse”.
The committee also recommended a new censure policy, which was adopted by the council. And while it may not impose any major consequences, “It is disciplinary in nature, in that it has the potential to affect a person’s public reputation,” according to the committee’s report.
In addition, in order for a proposal to censure to go to a vote of the full council, it must be proposed by two City Council members.
At a recent council meeting, council members voted to censure or admonish Mayor Silva, accusing him of releasing confidential information presented in closed sessions about the near-hire of David Garcia to be the new city manager.