Some residents in Cypress and two city council members have raised serious concerns about a new meeting agenda setting proposal from the mayor as critics worry it will limit policy discussions in their city.

On Monday, council members voted unanimously to continue a discussion on revising their agenda setting policy following pushback from residents. 

Rachel Strong, a Cypress resident, called Mayor Anne Hertz-Mallari’s proposal dangerous and problematic and said that a council member’s ability to schedule public discussions and debate is fundamental to the democratic process. 

“Constituents should be allowed to voice their concerns directly to city council members who then can bring them at large to the dias and discuss them, debate them and then make great decisions for our residents,” she said.

Hertz-Mallari called for the policy change, arguing the current process forces the city attorney and city manager to provide lengthy explanations on proposed agenda items and does not create a good working relationship with council members.

“The process needs to be looked at so that we are effective and efficient, and that we are running the city the best way possible,” she said at Monday’s meeting.

“And at no point was ever anything intended to – I don’t know – thwart the purpose of democracy or whatever it was I was accused of.”

It’s unclear exactly what changes could be made, but officials also unanimously voted to create an ad hoc committee to study the issue and bring it back at a later date.

Shades of Anaheim

In 2019, similar concerns were raised in Anaheim when former Mayor Harry Sidhu tried limiting discussions there by instituting a rule that required at least three of seven council members sign off an item before it gets scheduled for a public debate.

At the time, Sidhu echoed similar sentiments Hertz-Mallari did this week and said it wasn’t about limiting public discussion and debate, but trying to run the city more efficiently. 

Yet Sidhu and his Anaheim City Council majority consistently shot down proposals from two council members to publicly debate aspects of the Angel Stadium deal, which was ultimately canned last year after an FBI probe revealed Sidhu tried ramming the land sale through for $1 million on campaign support from team officials.

The former Anaheim mayor has denied any wrongdoing and hasn’t been charged with a crime. His agenda-setting rule was overturned last year.

[Read: Anaheim City Council Rule Change Could Bring A Wave of New Policy Discussions]

On Monday, Hertz-Mallari also called for any discussion that had a budget impact of $10,000 or more be referred to a strategic plan workshop or be a part of the development process for the annual budget and capital improvement plan.

Hertz-Mallari’s proposal also proposed limiting council members to introducing four agenda items per year – not including goals laid out in the strategic plan or budget.

“The intent there was to try to limit and control the (staff) workload, and making sure that we all have opportunities for agenda items,” Hertz-Mallari said. “Once I got to my four, I’d be talking to my colleagues and saying, ‘What do you think, can I get your support on this?’”

But Cypress City Councilman David Burke, took issue with the four items a year limitation.

“The answer to the question of how many items a council member should be able to add per year is as many as it takes to effectively represent their constituents,” he said at Monday’s meeting.

At the same time, Burke acknowledged councilmembers need to be mindful of the limited time and resources staff members have.

Changes Coming to Setting Agendas in Cypress? 

Cypress City Council members voted Monday to create an ad-hoc subcommittee with Hertz-Mallari and Burke to come up with a joint proposal on changing the current agenda setting policy in the city.

The current agenda setting policy in Cypress adopted in 2022 allows a council member to schedule a discussion during a city council meeting or through a written request to the city manager. 

If at least two other council members object to the item being added to the agenda, a discussion without a vote will take place to provide more direction to city staff.

“The objection-based process makes council members argue against an item rather than providing the Council Member who seeks the agenda item the opportunity to advocate for it,” Hertz-Mallari wrote in a staff report.

Her proposal called for council members to go through the city manager with requests for policy discussions before trying to get consensus from other council members to put an item on the agenda.

The city manager would be allowed to put council requests on the agenda at his or her discretion.

Proposed Agenda Setting Changes Face Blowback 

City Councilwoman Frances Marquez, who in the past has been censured by her colleagues, said the agenda-setting proposal violates the tenets of U.S. democracy. 

“The proposed changes to the agenda setting process by our mayor are resoundingly problematic in my eyes because they essentially take power away from council members and place it in the hands of the city manager,” Marquez said.

She said the proposal would impact her ability to get an item on the agenda.

“If I’m depending on the city manager how is this process supposed to work for me?” Marquez asked. “I’m not having meetings with the city manager at this time. So this is really problematic for me.”

Marquez said when she was first elected in 2020, council members did not need support of a colleague to get an item on the agenda and the city manager was not part of the process.

But, she said, that changed after she called for an item condemning Asian hate and an item acknowledging LGBTQ Pride Month in 2021.

Residents like Bob Youngsma criticized the proposal and the discretion given to the city manager to decide what does or does not get put on the agenda.

“That’s a line of BS. He’s an employee, he works for you. He doesn’t tell you what you do and what you don’t do,” he told council members during public comment. “I feel we’ve got people that are just trying to do less work.”

Cypress resident Katherine Shapiro called the mayor’s proposal the “antithesis of freedom of speech” and also took issue with giving that much discretion to the city manager.

“It doesn’t feel like a democracy, it feels like a dictatorship,” she said on Monday over Zoom. “I really, really, really am adamant against this. I think this is totally not what Cypress should ever become. We should welcome any sort of agenda item no matter where it comes from.”

For Councilman Burke, Hertz-Mallari’s proposal was so concerning he presented an alternative revision to the agenda policy.

“It essentially says the council members can either add an item through the city manager or by bringing it up at a council meeting and obtaining support from at least one other council member for especially staff intensive items,” he said.

“Even though I drafted this proposal, it’s more restrictive than I would personally like but I think it represents a fair compromise.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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