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Thursday, October 31,2013

Be here now

A closer look at City Council attendance records from 2010 to present

by Andy Balaskovitz
Jessica Yorko

This story was corrected on Oct. 31 to say that Jessica Yorko missed 16 percent of meetings in 2012, not Kathie Dunbar.

Thursday, Oct. 31 — Fourth Ward City Councilwoman Jessica Yorko has the worst meeting attendance record among her peers going back to 2010, but it was that first year in office that’s brought her numbers down. After 2010, her record is comparable to the other seven Council members.


Council attendance is an ongoing campaign issue this election, particularly in the 4th Ward race, and an analysis of records show incumbents’ records span the spectrum.


On average, Council members are assigned to roughly 110 meetings a year, which includes regular Council meetings, Committee of the Whole and committee meetings. The number of required Council meetings was cut in half this year due to a charter amendment, though special meetings are occasionally called.


City Pulse looked at committee meetings and full Council meetings attended from 2010-2012 and also attendance at 27 full Council meetings in 2013 (committee attendance for 2013 was not readily available). The 2010-’12 records were provided by Council staff, while this year’s attendance was taken from minutes posted on the city’s website. Being late was counted as present.


At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries leads incumbents Kathie Dunbar, Tina Houghton and Yorko, having attended 94 percent of meetings, or 354 of 376, since 2010. Houghton has showed up at 380 of 435 — 87 percent — of meetings this term, while Dunbar was present at 284 of 357 — 80 percent — of meetings.


Yorko, whose attendance has perhaps come under the most scrutiny from challenger Chong-Anna Canfora, has a 77 percent attendance rate since taking office. She’s attended 320 of 418 meetings.


However, the most damage to Yorko’s record came in her first year in office, when she attended 63 percent of meetings, or 103 of 161. In that time, she attended just 25 percent of her Public Safety Committee meetings, or 9 of 36. Yorko was also scheduled with the most meetings that year with 161. That’s nearly double the amount then-Council President A’Lynne Boles was assigned to — 88 — in 2010.


A recent mailer from Canfora’s campaign says Yorko missed 26 percent of meetings in her first three years. City Pulse calculated that she missed 97 of 391 meetings in that time, or 25 percent.


But after 2010, Yorko’s attendance is comparable to her peers. She has attended 84 percent, or 217 of 257, meetings in that time. Her attendance record in 2011 was better than Council members Dunbar, Derrick Quinney and former Councilman Eric Hewitt.


In 2012, only Dunbar had a worse attendance record than Yorko, missing 24 percent of meetings compared to Yorko's 16 percent. So far in 2013, Yorko — like Council members Jody Washington, Houghton and Quinney — has missed one meeting. Jeffries and Council President Carol Wood have been to all 27, according to meeting minutes online.


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