Black Diamond council expansion put on hold

A plan to expand the Black Diamond City Council to seven members has stalled.

The idea was first seriously broached by Councilwoman Janie Edelman during the April 5 council meeting.

“We’re now in the next few months going to start looking into our budget cycle, and I think it would be in our best interest as a city council to have two new members approved and sitting on the council when we go into the budget cycle,” she said. “Budgets are confusing, and I think that would be in our best interest.”

There’s also a legal aspect to expanding the council — once Black Diamond’s population hits 5,000, state law requires the council to grow to seven members.

At the moment, the city’s population is just above 4,000, but houses in Oakpointe’s developments in the city are being built quickly, and the first resident is expected to start calling Black Diamond home by summer.

Feedback on Edelman’s idea was positive, and the council directed City Attorney David Linehan to draft an ordinance to bring back to council.

But when the ordinance was tackled during the April 19 meeting, the majority seemed to have changed their minds.

Councilwoman Deady said she would like to see a work study to better examine the pros and cons of expanding the council at this time, and to gather more public opinion on the matter.

She added appointing two new members to the council would most likely be a “huge burden” on city staff, since they’d have five relatively new council members (including recently elected Councilwomen Melissa Oglesbee and Erin Stout and recently appointed Councilman Chris Wisnoski) to work with.

Stout agreed with Deady, adding, “It would be good for us to establish ourselves as this is who we are, and this is how we function together, so that our community members can see who we are and can understand what kind of group they might want to join.”

After Oglesbee signaled she’d like to wait before expanding the council as well, Edelman removed the ordinance on the agenda until the council is ready to bring it back.

Even though the ordinance didn’t pass, Stout said the conversation around the issue signaled strength and a healthy legislative branch.

“We just all had to plot and plan and regurgitate and think and ponder, and that’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” she said. “It’s good for our citizens to know that we’re not coming to any meeting with preconceived ideas of how anybody else is going to talk about anything. We come with our own ideas and our own thoughts and our own ideas.”

Changing council rules

This month, the Black Diamond City Council also revised its Council Rules and Procedure.

In January 2016, the former council majority of Councilmembers Pat Pepper, Brian Weber and Erika Morgan changed the council rules, sparking controversy for the city for the next two years.

The council reverted to its 2015 rules after Weber and Morgan’s seats were taken by Oglesbee and Stout, with the expectation that there would be changes made to the rules.

Many changes were for housekeeping, but one change stood out in conversation — to change the council’s rules in the future, there now must be a supermajority of council members, not just a majority.

“This is to protect a minority, if we ever have this majority-minority business again, which I hope we don’t,” Edelman said.

The new rules were approved unanimously during the April 5 meeting.

Black Diamond council expansion put on hold