Wednesday, February 21, 2007
City Council to Consider Moving Public Comment Period to End of Meetings
By Jim Ludwick
Journal Staff Writer
If you want to speak your mind to the City Council, you might have to become a night owl.
The council will consider a change in rules that would de-emphasize public comment while moving much of it to the end of meetings. Council meetings begin at 5 p.m. and often continue beyond 11 p.m.
Under current rules, there is a public comment period near the beginning of council meetings. Members of the public may comment on any topic, but each person is usually limited to two minutes.
In addition, as meetings progress, people are allowed to comment about specific items as they arise on the agenda. The rules limit each person to three agenda items.
A change in policy, proposed by Councilor Don Harris will be introduced today. Councilors could take up the proposal next month.
Under the proposal, a person would be allowed to address the council during discussion of two agenda items not three as current rules allow.
Remarks during the public comment period would have to be relevant to the operation or governance of the city. People now have an unlimited scope, and remarks often stray to topics such as mind control, conspiracy theories and child-custody disputes with state bureaucrats.
Perhaps the most significant change would move the public comment period to the end of meetings, after all other business is concluded.
Written comments could be submitted to the clerk of the council at any time.
Harris said the overall package would "make the meetings more serious."
"I think we'd like to make public comment more relevant. People who have something to say would have a chance to say it," he said.
At full sessions of the Legislature and Congress, "they don't operate with the rule that anyone who wants to come down can make a comment," Harris said.
He said he doesn't think his proposal will be controversial with other councilors, "but you never know."