CEDAR CITY —The New Year ushered in new council members and continued opportunities for Cedar City residents to get involved in their local government.

Cedar City Council members and staff prepare to discuss various agenda items during the weekly City Council meeting, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 10, 2024 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

“I want to hear from the citizens — good or bad,” Councilmember R. Scott Phillips said in reference to what’s working in the city and what isn’t. “We get emails all the time and I usually try and respond to them all. … I feel like we’re here to answer their needs and their concerns because all of you are the city.”

Cedar City’s legislative and governing body consists of a mayor and five City Council members, with the city manager administering the city’s departments, according to the city’s ordinances.

“Our legislative responsibilities include assisting in the creation, passing, amending and sometimes removing city laws or ordinances as they are often referred to,” Councilmember Carter Wilkey said.

The council also adopts a budget annually and determines general policy, among other responsibilities. It can delegate administrative powers as necessary.

“Council members are the liaison between taxpayers and the city government,” Councilmember Robert S. Cox wrote in an email.

Cedar City’s council members are elected at large, meaning they don’t represent a specific district or portion of the community, Phillips told Cedar City News.

The Cedar City offices sign is surrounded by snow-covered foliage, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 10, 2024 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

“We represent the entire community — some places don’t do that,” he explained.

The mayor is also elected at large and is the city’s chief executive, presiding over meetings, supervising city officer conduct and appointing committee members.

While the mayor doesn’t have veto power, City Manager Paul Bittmenn said they can break a tie in the council. However, because there are five council members, this can only occur if one is absent.

The mayor, with the council’s consent, appoints the city manager for an indefinite period based on their administrative qualifications, according to city ordinances. The manager oversees much of the city’s administrative day-to-day work.

How are decisions made?

The City Council holds meetings nearly every Wednesday at the city offices, alternating between work and action meetings. During work meetings, each item on the agenda is discussed, often with an invitation for public comment.

In this file photo, two women attend City Council to support an agenda item regarding community cats, Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 7, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

Then, the council decides if it will add the item to the consent or action agenda. Items on the consent agenda will be given a single up-or-down vote. Action agenda items typically require additional information, further discussion or a roll-call vote. Items are voted on every other week at action meetings.

“There is a lot of work that people don’t see that goes on between the work meeting and the actual action meeting,” Phillips said.

While the council is interested in hearing from all citizens, Phillips said he must also represent the residents who don’t or can’t attend meetings.

“We’re here to represent those that can’t represent themselves,” he said. “And I always try to put that hat on when I vote and say, ‘OK, I know that the 30 loud people are here, but what about the other 28,000 or 30,000 people that aren’t here? How does this affect them?”‘

Cox said while he believes members should listen to their constituents’ opinions and concerns, “decisions are made after reviewing the facts and circumstances,” as well as what members feel is best for the city and taxpayers.

“Ultimately, a council member needs to sift through it all and make decisions based on the factors mentioned above,” he said.

The City Council members discuss agenda items in this file photo, Cedar City, Utah, May 17, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

Items are approved or denied based on a simple majority, Phillips said. For instance, if all five members are present, three can approve a request.

“But there is strength in numbers,” he added. “Just because I don’t always necessarily agree with a particular council member, I’m always appreciative of their point of view. … I think there is collective wisdom there, and then, hopefully, through the process of discussion and understanding, we come to the best answer possible.”

Additionally, there are various city committees that new legislation and amendments may go through before reaching the council, Wilkey said.

“Learning about these different committees and when and how they meet can be really good for citizens who want to stay informed and potentially be part of the process,” he said.

How can residents share ideas and concerns?

In this file photo, Dan Kidder addresses the Cedar City Council during the public comment period, Cedar City, Utah, March 1, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

Cedar City residents can share ideas, opinions and concerns through various routes. Before agenda items are considered, Cedar City Mayor Garth Green opens the floor to public comment, typically asking each individual to speak for up to three minutes.

Additionally, council members’ email addresses are available online. Wilkey said that public speaking “isn’t for everyone” and that he hopes residents will call or email members.

“If a citizen has an idea for change or something they would like to see be created or removed, they should be able to come to one of us,” he said. “We may point them in the direction of a city staff member or possibly one of the committees that I spoke about earlier. Either through staff or those committees, that citizen’s proposal will be worked on and vetted and ultimately should end up at council.”

While Cox encourages residents to contact the city officials, he said using social media to share those thoughts is a “slippery slope” as it’s easy to misinterpret emotion. And he encourages both council members and citizens to study issues and city ordinances.

L-R: Robert Cox, Tyler Melling and Carter Wilkey are sworn in as Cedar City Council members in this file photo, Cedar City, Utah, Jan 2. 2024 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

“Many times, statutes and codes determine what can and cannot be legally done,” he said. “We all swore an oath to uphold and defend the national and state constitutions. Rights of one cannot be taken for the benefit of another because an individual wants it ‘their’ way.”

“Know the limits of local government and express concerns if those powers are abused,” Cox added.

City Council meetings are held most Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at 10 North Main Street. To view the city’s schedule, click here. Weekly agendas can be found at this link.

Cedar City residents can also watch the meetings on YouTube.

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