By Noah Dawson
Last year, in an open letter to the council published in the Pioneer, I encouraged the council to change the format of the public comment meetings in a way to both better utilize the hour between the beginning of that meeting and the beginning of the regular meeting and to give the public more time to elaborate on their remarks. Another added benefit, and the reason that inspired me to make the suggestion, would be that those who arrive late would have a better chance to speak.
My suggestions have not been put into place. To her credit, council member Hays did send an email in response, saying she would take my “suggestions into consideration.” However, I have not seen any further discussion of this issue amongst council members. Additionally, City Manager Jared Miller dismissed the solution in an interview, where he also claimed to not see any issue with the way the meetings were run.
Part of Miller's argument is that, in his words, “in most situations, you should be able to get across the gist in 3 minutes.” As somebody who has experience in high school debate, where I often competed in congressional debate, where 3 minutes is the limit for speeches, I can say that this limit is not always best for the general public. But, I don't need that experience to know that. I've seen many speakers at council meetings get to three minutes with plenty left to say.
I implore the council: actually consider my suggestion.
Further, though, I want to bring up a point about the time change in general. The council has asserted that the average attendance has not been affected by the time change, though I have not seen any evidence. But, let's assume this is true. On an average day, attendance might not be changed. There is still the fact that, after events that have stirred up the community, there has not been a dramatic rise in attendance. Before, when major events occurred, attendance would rise, often filling not only the council chamber, but the overflow room as well. It provided an outlet for the community. If we assume the worst, if we assume this was the council's intention, they succeeded.