Guide to Public Meetings
We’ve heard from many members of the community that the Town meeting process can be confusing, and we agree! In response we’ve put together this guide for effectively participating in the public process.
- The Town Council meets the first Wednesday every month at 7 p.m. in the Fairfax Women’s Club (45 Park Road). In addition to their regular meetings, they occasionally hold a special meeting or study sessions on a topic. All of these meetings are open to the public and information about them can be found under the Public Meeting section of the Town website.
- Boards and Commission meetings are also open to the public. For a list of these groups, visit the Boards and Commissions page.
- At least 72 hours prior to a regular (monthly) public meeting, the agenda and any applicable staff reports are made available to the public.
- All public meetings are subject to the Brown Act. For more information visit the League of California Cities website.
- Town Council and Planning Commission meetings are televised on Channel 27 and also available to watch online.
- You can sign-up to receive agendas by email.
What to Expect
Smile – you’re on camera! Town Council and Planning Commission meetings are filmed and aired on Channel 27 as well as streamed live on our website. The meetings are formal, although we do try to lighten the mood occasionally with a joke or two. The Town Council sits at the dais with staff below, including the elected Town Clerk. Members of the public are invited to sit in the audience.
Town Council meetings are where decisions are made regarding all kinds of Town business, from contracts to hire a consultant all the way to approving a major land use decision. There are several types of agenda items:
- “Open Time” is a time when members of the public may speak on items that are not otherwise on the agenda. Speakers are asked to limit their remarks to 3 minutes.
- The “Consent Calendar” is a list of regular orders of business that requires just one motion and vote to approve them all. This typically includes things like contracts, street closures, purchasing agreements, and other routine items. Members of the Town Council may pull items off the Consent Calendar if they wish to discuss them in more detail before a vote. Members of the public have an opportunity to comment on the Consent Calendar items prior to the vote.
- A “Public Hearing” is a formality for certain proposed actions designed to allow the public to provide “testimony” on the issue. Their remarks are recorded for the public record. Sometimes public hearings are required by law, and other times the Town Council may use them to gather information that will help them make decisions.
- A “Presentation” is normally used when the Town Council wishes to formally recognize a group or individual for their contribution in some way, or for a local agency to provide updates on work that impacts the Town.
- “Regular Agenda” items are discussion items for the Town Council. Many types of items can fall into this category. These items either require the Town Council’s approval or can be informational reports on programs and projects. Members of the public have an opportunity to comment on each item.
- The “Town Manager’s Report” and “Councilmember Reports” are standing items in which the Town Manager and members of the Town Council can report out or provide brief updates from their work on other regional bodies and organizations.
Each agenda item typically includes the following steps:
- Staff makes a presentation (“Staff Report”) that explains the topic and recommended action by the Town Council. Depending on the nature of the topic, other groups may make presentations as well, such as project applicants or consultants.
- The Town Council may ask questions of staff about the item.
- The Mayor invites public comment: members of the public speak may speak at the podium for up to 3 minutes.
- After public comment time concludes, the Town Council may ask staff to answer any questions asked during public comment.
- The Town Council then deliberates and votes on the item.
In addition to Town Council Meetings, the Town also convenes other types of public meetings, such as:
- Study Sessions – these are special meetings scheduled for the Town Council to hear detailed information on a topic. The Council can ask questions and provide initial feedback to staff on a topic. The Town Council does not make decisions at these meetings. Study Sessions are subject to the Brown Act and agendas are posted. Although staff usually makes a presentation, they don’t normally write staff reports.
- Community Meetings, Workshops, and Town Forums – the Town will often host forums on large projects or important topics to solicit input from the public throughout the course of a project or provide information on an issue that impacts our community.
- All meetings other than regular monthly meetings are called Special Meetings. Special meeting agendas are made available to the public at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.