It can be confusing and even intimidating the first time you attend a DSRSD Board or Committee meeting, especially if you’ve never attended other formal public meetings such as a city council or school board meeting. These tips will help you understand the process and know when to speak up. It’s your right to express your opinion on matters of District business with your elected Boardmembers. In doing so, keep in mind that they want to hear from you and value your input.
What's on the Agenda?
Board and Committee meetings are open to the public. Time is always reserved for public comment on any matter of concern to you, usually at the beginning of the meeting. In addition, there is opportunity to comment on any item on the agenda as that item is taken up by the Board or the Committee. The Board usually meets twice a month on the first and third Tuesday at 6 p.m. Committees meet when needed. Days and times of all meetings, as well as the agenda, are posted in advance on the meetings calendar.
Each item on the agenda is numbered. Use the bookmarks in the online agenda packet to find the documents that relate to each item. For Board meetings, there will be a document called "Summary & Recommendation" for any item that will be discussed individually by the Board. Staff prepares this document to summarize the topic and any recommendations to the Board. For Committee meetings, a staff report or memo usually fulfills the same purpose. It’s a good idea to print your own copies of any documents of interest because very few will be available at the meeting.
When Should You Speak? What’s the Procedure?
If you want to speak during a Board meeting, fill out a blue speaker card as soon as you arrive. These are available on the small table just inside the Boardroom door. Give your card to the District Secretary prior to addressing the Board. Feel free to walk up to her quietly during the meeting. She sits on the right side of the dais.
Every Board meeting agenda includes a time for public comment when anyone in the audience can speak on a topic not on the meeting agenda. Public comment is usually agenda item 5. You may speak on any topic, but it should be something related to DSRSD Board’s jurisdiction—water, wastewater, and recycled water services. You may contact District Secretary Nicole Genzale at (925) 828-0515 if you’re unsure. If you want to comment on a topic on the meeting agenda, wait until the Board gets to that item.
The president of the Board will recognize each speaker (from the speaker cards). When the president calls your name, walk up to the lectern, introduce yourself, and then proceed with your comments. Your remarks may feel more like a mini presentation than a question and answer session. Boardmembers will listen and may respond, but the Ralph M. Brown Act (the law that governs public meetings) prevents them from engaging in extended dialogue with the speaker or discussing the matter. Plan to speak for less than five minutes. Your remarks may be summarized in the meeting minutes.
Committee meetings are less formal but follow a similar procedure as Board meetings. Public comment on items not on the agenda is usually taken at the start of the meeting. You will not need to fill out a speaker card. The chair of the meeting will acknowledge you if you indicate that you want to speak. Committee meetings usually take place in a small conference room next to the Boardroom.
Why Doesn’t the Board Discuss Everything on the Agenda?
Items listed under Consent Calendar are routine matters that are not discussed individually. However, any director can ask that a Consent Calendar item be discussed individually, and this sometimes happens. Items listed under Board Business are discussed individually.
The Board will discuss items listed under Closed Session privately in a conference room and summarize any “reportable action” after the closed session ends. The Brown Act allows the Board or a Committee to discuss only very limited matters in closed session such as those related to litigation, personnel, property, and security.
What Type of Agency is DSRSD?
Dublin San Ramon Services District is an independent special district, a government agency that is separate from the cities and counties in its service area. A five-member Board of Directors governs the District, sets policies and direction, hires its general manager, and is ultimately accountable to the people of the District. These directors are elected at large, which means they all represent all of the customers in the District’s service area.
Each director traditionally serves on two deliberative Committees that deal with specific subjects: finance and personnel, water resources, and external affairs. These Committees are allowed to deliberate and recommend changes in District policy or direction within their scope but may not create or change policy or direction or stop a program adopted by the Board. Directors also serve on other types of committees related to the District’s relationships with other agencies. These meetings also are open to the public and are listed on the meetings calendar.
Each person sitting at the Boardroom dais (the horseshoe-shaped desk) is identified by a name placard. As you face the dais, senior staff (District employees) will be on your left, elected Boardmembers in the middle, and the District’s general counsel and secretary on your right. The Board president conducts the meeting (or in his or her absence, the vice president).
For a more detailed description of how the DSRSD Board functions and its responsibilities under the Brown Act, read Guidelines for Conducting Dublin San Ramon Services District Business.