City Council, staff and commission members get lesson in Robert’s Rules of Order

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Ann Macfarlane presents to members of the Lynnwood City Council, city staff and members of various boards and commissions. (Photo by Natalie Covate)

The Lynnwood City Council, as well as city staff and members of various boards and commissions, were visited by a professional parliamentarian during its work session on Monday night.

Ann Macfarlane, founder of Jurassic Parliament, has visited Lynnwood before, regularly offering training sessions for council and commission members. Her company creates lessons on running efficient government meetings based on Robert’s Rules of Order. According to Jurassic Parliament’s website, Robert was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He published his “pocket manual” in 1876. It has since been revised and clarified, and the most current version of the book is 800 pages long.

So, she created an easy-to-follow class with dinosaurs as props to help teach officials how to properly run their meetings.

Council President Benjamin Goodwin introduced Macfarlane. She majored in Russian and Ancient Greek at the University of California, Santa Cruz and went on to earn a second degree from Cambridge University in England. She then joined the U.S. Foreign Service. After marrying a fellow foreign service officer, she became a stay-at-home-mom of sorts, travelling to the Congo, Tanzania and Nepal. She later became a Russian-to-English translator. In 2000, she developed Jurassic Parliament and now trains people serving on boards or councils, as well as staff members, in running a proper meeting and is a registered parliamentarian. She is also the author of Mastering Council Meetings.

Her session begins with setting the stage. Everyone involved in the training has a role to play as a citizen or councilmember of Dinopolis, a fictional city occupied by dinosaurs. A mock meeting begins, with every participating member reading from a script.

The city’s Finance Officer was pleased to report the city had a $10 million surplus from the year before, as they had an income of $200 million and expenses totaling $190 million.

After the council expressed their joy at the news, a problem was brought forth: there’s not enough parking in Dinopolis. A citizen concerned about the environment stands up and says the answer is to charge more for parking. An elderly citizen, however, argues that with a surplus already earned by the city, charging for parking would create an unnecessary burden on the citizens of Dinopolis.

It all served to prove a few points in Robert’s Rules of Order. The elderly and environmental citizens got into a shouting match, monopolizing the meeting, which is not allowed in Robert’s Rules.

Lessons like that continued until approximately 10 p.m., covering every major aspect of Robert’s Rules.

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