Public input standards usually relate to the following:
- Requirement to sign up in advance.
- Allowing public input on non-agenda items.
- Allowing a response to a citizen comment/input.
- When should public input be allowed on a public council meeting agenda?
Councilor Jamison asked for information regarding Aberdeen and Rapid City which was left off the research because it was not on the HR comparability list. I went out and looked at these two websites.
- The City of Aberdeen provides an open forum from 5:30 p.m. to 5:40 p.m. which occurs after the Proclamations and before the Consent Agenda approval. The rules for the Open Forum are printed right on the agenda. It says that the Open Forum provides an opportunity for the public to address the city council with concerns, questions or comments on items which are not on the agenda. They have sign up prior to the start of the meeting. A majority of the council can agree to extend the time period. Presentations cannot exceed two minutes in duration. The forum cannot be used to make personal attacks, air personality grievances or make political endorsements. It cannot be used as a time for problem solving or reacting to comments made.
- The City of Rapid City allows for General Public Comment after the adoption of the agenda and presentation of awards and recognition and before the consent agenda. The official agenda states it is a time for members of the public to address or express concern to the council on any issue not on the agenda.
Councilor Karsky stated he advocates looking at adjusting the public input standard and wants to put public input at the end of a council meeting because he is concerned about all those city employees and those who come to speak to a specific agenda item. Councilor Jamison stated it should be looked at to make it better. Councilor Rolfing asked the topic be sent to the next working sessions so they all could discuss it more fully.
When you start making rules to censure public input, you start down a path that is going to create controversy and dissent. It is a slippery slope fraught with charges of tampering with free speech and openness and transparency in government. The public input provision may make some elected officials uncomfortable. So what? When you become comfortable and no one is allowed to speak up and challenge an elected official is when democracy takes a back seat to good government.
What should be the community standard for public input? I think we have one already and as Interim City Clerk stated, our community standards are towards much more openness and public input than most other places. What is wrong with that?