Welcome to City Hall, now calm down

There’s a lot of changes with the new City hall, but one thing is the same – the size of the city council chambers.

Planners took the dimensions and imposed them on the new building, where it fit in just three places, General Services Director (and reporter catcher) Tim Haldeman said.


(The new council chambers. Forgive my blurry iPhone work)

They chose the second floor, where there would be a “natural synergy” between council chambers and the city manager’s office.

But a lot more is different, including that the elected officials are no longer shoulder-to-shoulder. They talked with council members from the past and present, and they all said they felt a bit cramped up there, Haldeman said.

City Manager Eric Holmes and City Attorney Ted Gathe also got permanent seats, whereas before they would have to give their spots up throughout the meeting for staff presentations.

The biggest change is that citizen speakers now must be seated at a table with their back to the crowd, facing the council. It’s the way that you do it at the Clark County Board of Commissioners and at Oregon Metro, to name a few places. Before, visitors to the city council stood at a podium, facing the seated city council and partially the audience.

Being seated with their back to everyone provides less of a chance to whip up the crowd — and puts the interaction solely between the speaker and the council.

“With the podium at an angle, the presenter has the ability to communicate to audience and to council,” Haldeman said. “(The new set up) is formalizing the presentation to council without audience participation.”

Also, while it seems like the council is now towering in their seats at the dais, Haldeman swears it’s just a six-inch step.

Lastly, I had to ask about the transition from the pink carpets and jarring color scheme of the old, to the warm greens and taupe of the new council chambers. Was it intentional to put in such calming colors in a place where people get pretty heated?

“No, not at all, we were just following color scheme from the rest of the building,” he said. “It’s got a very warm, soothing effect. We like the colors and hues of building.”

I’ll leave you with this quote, from “Ocean’s Eleven” on the topic of colors affecting mood.

On viewing a camera feed of a back hallway of the casino, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) asks, “Why do they always paint hallways that color?” Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) replies, “They say taupe is very soothing.”

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