I spend an inordinate amount of time at City Hall (and elsewhere) listening to City Council (and appointed boards / commissions) conduct their business. This page describes why and how; you can also find links to my notes on those meetings when they are available.

This page is likely only relevant to Huntsville, but some of the Alabama state law references could be useful.

For long-term projects that I'm working on, check out the Starmap.

The basics

Why do I do this? In short: most board and commission meetings are not recorded, or their details are otherwise not very accessible to the public. Legal minutes (the official recording of what happened during a meeting) are either very sparse, containing only the actions that were approved at meetings, or very long, containing nearly every word that someone spoke. By attending meetings myself, it's easier to write more concise summaries of what happened and connect the dots across boards/commissions to get an idea of how the government functions at a high level.

How do I do this? Every Alabama citizen (at least) has a right of access to all meetings where any state or local government entity conducts "deliberative process." This even applies to meetings of municipalities that aren't your own (for example, you can attend a Decatur council meeting even if you are a Huntsville resident). Of course, the devil is in the details; it's especially important to understand the definition of "meeting." I intend to write a summary of the act and your rights underneath it, but in the meantime, the Alabama State Bar provides a good summary. You can read the text of the act yourself: AL Code § 36-25A (2021).

Additionally, every Alabama citizen (at least) has a right of access to public records. I intend to write a summary of the Public Records Law at some point too, but for now, it's short enough that you can read it yourself: AL Code § 36-12-40 (2021).

Important bodies

  • City Council is the primary legislative body in Huntsville.

Although it is possible to trace the power of each of these bodies back to state law or an act of Council, it is usually simpler to work under the assumption that the bodies have always existed and probably have authority to do what they are doing. However, when I've had the patience to do so, I've linked to possible legal authorities on each body's subpage.

Misc. state law references

  • Classification of municipalities: AL Code § 11-40-12 (2021). Huntsville is currently a Class 3 municipality (its 1970 population was 139k).