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APS extends public forum time at board meetings

APS offices in Uptown. (Albuquerque Journal file photo)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The amount of time allotted for community members to speak, ask questions and address the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education at its meetings is about to get longer.

The board decided to extend the public comment period from 30 minutes to 45 minutes at a Policy and Instruction Committee meeting Wednesday night.

The change comes after speakers previously told the board the allotted time wasn’t enough.

Board members Peggy Muller-Aragón and Candelaria Patterson particularly pushed for the change.

“I think it shows the community we are at least trying,” Muller-Aragón said.

And Patterson jokingly noted she “doesn’t want to sleep in the John Milne (Community Board Room)” but she did want an extended time for people to verbalize what they need to.

Board Secretary Yolanda Montoya-Cordova highlighted that a 45-minute forum does not give individual speakers more time, which is one to two minutes, but, rather, it allows a larger number of speakers to participate.

Under the altered public comment period, more speakers will get two minutes each; if there are 23 participants or more, then the time will be reduced to one minute.

The change is not anticipated to take place at the next Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, as it still has to be officially approved at that meeting. But the subsequent meeting should have the updated public forum procedure, Board of Education President David Peercy explained.

The APS directive on public participation also altered a condition that allowed the board president to bar people from attending future meetings, removing that authority from the rule.

The changes to the directive were unanimously approved by the board.

Member Lorenzo Garcia wasn’t present during the meeting and member Elizabeth Armijo wasn’t present for this vote.

Originally, the board suggested making public forum time more malleable, extending the time as needed.

However, Peercy emphasized there has to be a uniform time on the books, saying the district has run into problems with inconsistent public forum in the past and could face future legal problems if it deviates from the set time.