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Parker Administration to end hard copy agenda backups for Councilors

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On Monday, August 4 at the Agenda briefing, Marta Crinejo, Mayor Parker's Agenda Secretary announced to the staff of Council Members and department heads that beginning this week, only digital versions of the weekly agenda and backup documents will be distributed. There will be two versions available to Council Members through the City Hall server, one allowing Council members to make annotations, the other, available to the public in PDF format like the current version, will not allow changes. All the same documents have been available on-line on the City of Houston website each week since February 27, 2007.

Although Ms. Crinejo did not discuss costs or time savings, the move will clearly save staff time and printing costs. The agenda is typically about 4 pages, but the backup documents can average 150 pages per session. The public rarely sees the printed documents, but typically, the Council members have a 3-ring binder with the backup before them. Each of the 17 City Councilors has 4 staff members, so if they receive 1 working copy and an office copy the Friday before each meeting, they would consume about 5100 pages, or a little over 10 reams, or 1 case of paper per week. Although the cost is minor (retail about $30 per week or just under $1500 per year, not counting ink and toner, wear and tear on printers, and staff time), the entire process becomes much more efficient. Council Members who prefer a printed version can still print the materials at their own expense. However, all of them have smart phones and presumably e-readers or tablets, so they should be able to adjust to the new method quickly.

The change may also have been motivated from the recent series of unusually long and complicated meetings including passage of the controversial Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and the current debate on changes to the regulations of vehicles for hire that will legalize services like Uber and Lyft. Voluminous drafts and proposed amendments have caused weekly agenda backups to mushroom to 230 to 400 pages occasionally. This week's backup will include a matrix of proposed amendments to the draft ordinance, sorted by topic and Council member. Ms. Crinejo stated that the agendas and backup documents will be available on the City of Houston website starting Friday evenings, about an hour sooner than in the past.

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