Cypress Councilwoman Frances Marquez says a newly approved agenda setting rule will limit her from setting policy discussions in her city.

Her colleagues however, say the new policy will be more conducive of a collaborative work relationship between council members.

At Monday’s city council meeting, the council voted 4-1 to approve a new agenda setting policy proposed by Mayor Anne Hertz-Mallari and Councilman David Burke that requires officials to turn to the city manager or a council colleague to put an item on a future agenda.

“The city manager is currently refusing to have weekly meetings with me, we’ve not had them for the past two months. Therefore, this avenue to place an item on the agenda would not work for me,” Marquez told her colleagues, adding that the change will take away her ability to get policy discussions scheduled. 

Currently, any Cypress City Council member can schedule an agenda item, unless two or more colleagues object to the move, then it becomes a discussion only item – not an actionable proposal. 

Similar rules in other Orange County cities have limited policy proposals and discussions by council members in political minorities. 

In Cypress, Hertz-Mallari pushed back on Marquez – the only person of color on the dais – and said the council has forbidden her from meeting with the city manager.

“Unfortunately, the comments that you made tonight are a small sample of the things that you’ve said not only in public, but in private, that concern the rest of your colleagues, that you might be opening the city up for liability by creating a hostile work environment,” she said.

Hertz-Mallari said Marquez can contact City Manager Peter Grant through email and that the new policy provides officials with more opportunities to get items on the agenda than before.

“You are not a victim. You are an elected official in a seat of power,” she told Marquez. “And to say that something else is happening to you that you are uniquely separated or unable to complete your work is not true.”

“The only thing that we have prevented you is from opportunities to meet individually with the city manager because we do feel that there’s some liability attached to that.”

Marquez said she never claimed to be a victim and the new policy restricts her voice.

“I’m different from everybody on this dais. I bring a different perspective. And I want my perspective to be heard, and I don’t believe my perspective will be heard with this process,” she said.

Marquez – who has been censured by her colleagues twice since being elected to office in 2020 – voted against the policy change arguing she would not be able to add discussions through Grant and that the city manager is not elected by the people.

She also said other cities have made it difficult for elected officials to put items on the agenda and pointed to Anaheim.

Other OC Cities’ Reverse Agenda Setting Policies

In 2019,  former Anaheim 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.

The mayor was able to single handedly place items on the agenda. 

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. 

Sidhu’s agenda-setting rule was overturned last year in the wake of the FBI probe.

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

Last July, Irvine got rid of a controversial practice known as the “rule of two,” that required at least two councilmembers to place anything on the agenda, but left the mayor free to put anything they wanted on the agenda without a second vote. 

Read: Irvine Council Leaves Mayor On Ballot and Reverses Controversial Agenda Setting Rule]

That rule was criticized for blocking then-Councilwoman Melissa Fox and later Councilman Larry Agran, who were in the political minority on the council, from agendizing discussions the majority wanted to avoid. 

Since its repeal, Irvine’s meetings have often stretched late into the night or even the early morning, with more council member initiated items, but have seen the frequent adoption of new policies. 

Cypress’ Agenda Setting Policy

Monday’s decision comes after Hertz-Mallari called for an agenda setting policy change in April, arguing the current one forced city staff to provide lengthy explanations and did not create a good working relationship with councilmembers.

[Read: Will The Cypress City Council Limit Public Debates?]

But some residents and council members Marquez and Burke took issue with the Mayor’s previous proposal, which would have limited officials to introducing four agenda items per year – not including goals laid out in the strategic plan or budget.

Critics also said it gave City Manager Peter Grant – who is not an elected official – too much discretion on what can be put on the agenda.

Pushback led councilmembers at their April 24 meeting to continue the discussion and create an ad-hoc committee with Burke and Hertz-Mallari to formulate a new agenda setting policy.

The newly approved policy requires officials to ask the city manager to put an item on the agenda or propose an item at a city council meeting.

If the proposal receives support from one other council member, it will come back with a brief agenda report. If two other officials support the item, it will come back to the council with a full agenda report.

It will be up to the mayor and city manager to decide when the agenda item comes back.

If an item is acted on, it can not come back before the council for another year unless a majority of officials want to do so.

Burke said Monday the policy is better than what had been proposed in April and called it a fair compromise.

“I plan to be supportive of my fellow council members’ ideas especially if they’re bringing something forth that came from one of our residents,” he said.

“Even if I may not fully support it initially, I want to hear them out.”

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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