The Rio Rancho Governing Body has moved regular meetings to 6 p.m. on second and fourth Thursdays.
The 5-1 vote to move the meetings from 4 p.m. came after governing body members had discussed the schedule four times this year, once in a work session and three times at regular meetings. The latest vote, with Councilor Daniel Stoddard being the dissenter, came at the governing body meeting Wednesday at City Hall.
In May, governing body members voted 4-3, with Mayor Gregg Hull casting the tie-breaking vote, to move regular meetings from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 4 p.m. Thursday. Councilor Jennifer Flor had said she needed to pick up her child from school at 4 p.m., and Councilor Paul Wymer said it would be a hardship for him to leave work in time for a 4 p.m. meeting.
At the June 10 governing body meeting, Councilor Jim Owen, another opponent of the change, asked to reconsider the move at the next meeting because he couldn’t get off work until 4, which would make him late to every meeting. Councilor Bob Tyler, a supporter of the change, agreed.
Wednesday, Owen said moving meetings to Thursdays solved some problems and created others.
“But by making the move over to 4 o’clock, that was a timing issue,” he said. “It was more about the availability of the public to be here was my primary concern on my original vote.”
Most people couldn’t come to a meeting until after 5, including people picking up children from daycare, he added.
Also, he said his printing company has experienced such a drop in business during the novel coronavirus pandemic that he took a part-time job that requires him to work until 4. Owen suggested 6 p.m. Thursdays as a compromise to accommodate work schedules of councilor and residents.
Rio Rancho resident Cheryl Everett advocated for keeping the traditional time of 6 p.m. Wednesdays, saying several city councilors had built their schedules around it and 6 p.m. was better for working citizens. She said the issue of a time change came up when Councilor Jeremy Lenentine mentioned at a work session that the traditional time caused a scheduling conflict for him, but public discussion moved away from that issue.
“It was about an improbable theory that a new meeting time inconvenient to working families would somehow spur citizens to attend meetings, or that churchgoers might prefer a Thursday council meeting,” she said. “But instead of invoking constitutionally shaky religious grounds, why not just schedule governing body meetings around someone’s bowling night or a neighbor weekly poker game?”
Stoddard proposed a compromise of 5 p.m. start times with public comment periods at the beginning and end of the meetings, and said many people don’t work 8-to-5 schedules.
“Things have changed,” he said.
In the end, the majority chose the traditional time on a new day.
In other business, governing body members:
- Voted to remove city ordinances against driving with a suspended or revoked license, assault, battery, misdemeanor aggravated battery and assault on a peace officer in 30 days to have them handled in magistrate court instead of municipal court. Tyler, who sponsored the change, said doing so would allow more severe penalties for convictions, especially repeat offenses.
- Extended the city health care emergency declaration through July 31. The declaration doesn’t affect stay-at-home or business-closure orders from the state.