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Council changes comment policy

Ben Godar

After years of tinkering with when and how the public may address the

City Council, council members voted Tuesday to again change the

structure of the oral communications periods.

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On a 3-2 vote, the council opted to expand the second period of

oral communications, during which speakers can discuss any item under

the jurisdiction of the council, from one minute to two minutes. The

proposal will also shorten the final period, which follows the same

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subject restrictions, from three minutes to two minutes. As in the

current policy, citizens who speak during the earlier comment period

would not be allowed to speak during the final period.

Councilman Todd Campbell said giving people the choice of two

minutes to speak either before or after the agenda would provide

balance.

“I think it’s a very elegant proposal,” he said.

Dave Golonski, the councilman who requested the policy be

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reviewed, supported a different plan, which would have grouped those

speaking on agenda items and non-agenda items into the same period,

with a five-minute time limit.

Tuesday’s split vote was far from the first time council members

have been conflicted on the structure of oral communications.

According to a report prepared by City Atty. Dennis Barlow, the

council has considered revisions to the oral communications policy 15

times since 1988. In that time, the number of communication periods

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has grown from one to four, with various time and subject limits

assigned to each period.

“The parameters of oral communications are limited only by the

Brown Act and the imagination,” Barlow said.

While he voted in favor of changing the existing policy,

councilman Jef Vander Borght voiced skepticism that the council would

ever find the perfect policy.

“Since 1975 we’ve gone through 16 iterations -- that ought to tell

us something,” he said.


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