A Guide to Public Comments
Written by Susan Lloyd ~
Today’s blog has to do with the public having the opportunity to speak at the Commission Meetings (and there’s one tonight, along with a CRA meeting-please come and have your say!)– and how at times the comment cards disappear and then reappear on the dais.
Before the meeting begins, the bright pink comment cards are available for citizens to fill out and hand in to the town clerk. You can fill out one card for general comments and are allowed an opportunity to speak your mind on any town matter (that is not on the agenda) for three minutes. One can also fill out the bright pink comment card if they would like to speak on any agenda item. The cards are then handed to the mayor who sorts them as to whether they are for general comments or agenda items. Let me also mention, in case you haven’t seen the cards, that there is a line for general comments and another line for agenda comments. Under general comments you can write what you are gong to discuss or leave it blank. Under agenda comments one is to write on the card which agenda item you would like to comment on. It is pretty cut and dry.
Here is where I am having problems with the whole process. The cards, in spite of the fact that they are bright pink, get easily misplaced by the mayor. He also gets confused between general comment cards and agenda comment cards.
Not once, not twice but three times he has misplaced my card. How does this happen? For crying out loud they are BRIGHT PINK!! Oh, mind you he is very apologetic about misplacing my card. The second time he actually made a joke about it, and the third time he again chuckled and apologized publicly. I guess that should make it OK, since he said he was sorry.
Prior to having the public speak, he reads from the agenda that it is time for public comments, as follows:
“This time is provided for audience members to address items that do not appear on the Agenda. Please complete a comment card and provide it to the Agency Clerk so speakers may be announced. Please remember comments are limited to a TOTAL of three minutes.”
Now mind you, the mayor has the comment cards in his possession and still manages to lose some.
The same comments are read prior to Agenda item comments while he has the cards right in front of him. Still he misplaces cards.
Diane Bernhard made an excellent suggestion to the commissioners prior to the Wednesday meeting, which I solidly support. She also made the suggestion to Jamie Titcomb in person. I then separately e-mailed all the commissioners supporting her suggestion. I sent it separately as not to have any issues with the Sunshine Law.
It read as follows:
Commissioners and Town Manager:
I strongly support Ms. Bernhard’s suggestion that the Town Clerk keep the comment cards in her possession until it is time for public comments. To have misplaced cards three times is three times too many.
It should not occur once. Obviously there is too much paper work in front of the mayor and the bright pink comment cards get buried under those papers. My recommendation would be that Ms. Lemley keep the cards until the mayor reads the notice about public comments. Upon completion Ms. Lemley could than present the cards to the mayor – in addition, keep a list of the names to assure that all individuals will be called. This would not add any delays to the meeting other than a few seconds. She will keep the general comment cards and the agenda comment cards separate and provide them to the mayor upon his reading the text about comment cards. It seems like a very simple solution to an ongoing problem. Please let me know your thoughts on this suggestion and how it can be put into effect. Susan Lloyd
Although all the Commissioners, when on the dais, have stated that they respond to all –email, I only got two responses back. I did not get one from the Mayor.
My plan in the future is that if my card is once again misplaced and the Mayor tries to move the meeting on without me getting my three minutes I will loudly yell from the audience that he has once again misplaced my card and ask to speak. You may ask why have I not already done that? It is called decorum, which there often is not a whole lot of up on that dais.
I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE MORE CITIZENS TO ATTEND THE COMMISSION MEETINGS. FILL OUT THOSE COMMENT CARDS AND ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR TOWN. SUPPORT THE COMMISSION WHEN THE RIGHT DECISIONS ARE MADE, AND QUESTION, QUESTION, QUESTION ISSUES THAT JUST DON’T FEEL RIGHT.