Part 2: What would you do as Mayor, then, if Jamestown's Mayor has so little power?
Presiding over the meetings means setting agendas that still move legislation forward, but I believe can be done better to encourage public participation. In particular, as mayor I would schedule public hearings so Council does not vote directly after hearing from the public.
Indeed, there are at least 30 different reasons why towns are legally required to hold public hearings, which give the public the opportunity to address Council on important matters. Certainly, according to statue 160A-81, "The council may adopt reasonable rules governing the conduct of public hearings," including time limits and the number of speakers -- at least when a number of speakers all hold the same position, or when the number of attendees exceeds the capacity of the room.
But when a Council will then vote on the matter immediately after a public hearing -- i.e., during the same meeting -- that encourages the Council to come to the public hearing prepared to vote, not to listen. In that case, the public hearing then places a burden on the citizen not just to provide information or perspective, but also to argue either "for" or "against" a measure. That can keep the public from sharing alternative options because they can feel locked in to arguing for or against that measure. The timing also prevents the public from hearing from one another before making up their own minds, reading subsequent reports and editorials, and discussing the matter with one another and with elected officials prior to Council's vote.
So that's the way it's been done here in Jamestown for over a decade -- with Council voting right after public hearings -- and I've spoken at Town Council meetings about this because, overall, I think that method discourages the kind of public participation that is so crucial to our democracy.