Meridian Star

October 11, 2013

Council drafting new rules for citizens' comments

By Terri Ferguson Smith /
From staff reports

MERIDIAN —    Residents may be able to address the city council during public meetings again. At a council work session on Thursday, council members talked about reinstating the citizens comments portion at their business meetings. The council took citizens comments off the agenda in June, in response to a group they said was monopolizing the time on issues that were unrelated to the city's business.

    They are considering putting it back on the agenda, but with new rules.

    Ward Two Councilman Dustin Markham suggested that the time limit rule be written so that the council can, if it believes it is necessary, allow the speaker extra time or less time.

    Ward Three Councilwoman Barbara Henson said she wanted to make it clear that speakers are to address the council as a whole; not individually. That is part of the decorum they expect at council meetings.

    At Ward Four Councilwoman Kim Houston's request, rules of decorum will be included on the form so speakers will know the proper way to address the city council.

    Houston said she wanted to make it clear to those addressing the council that they will be escorted out of council meeting room if they do not follow the rules.

    Citizens will always have the option of contacting their council representative by phone, through the clerk of the Council or through email, said Ward One Councilman George Thomas.

    Components of the citizens' comments rules under consideration by the council are:

    A person wishing to address the council through citizens comments must first fill out a request  form that will be provided by the Clerk of the Council. That form will ask them for their name, address, phone number, and ward number. It will also ask them to list what topic they will be discussing.

    Each person will be given three minutes to speak, with a total of five people allowed to speak at one meeting. Citizens comments will not run more than 15 minutes total.

    The topic must be relevant to the operation of the city's business.

    The request form must be filled out and returned to the clerk of the council by 4:30 p.m. on Monday; one week prior to the next city council meeting. That will allow the clerk and the council enough time to consider adding the person's request to the agenda.

    On the day of the council meeting, the person must notify the clerk that they are present.

    The council also wants to limit the number of people who speak on a particular subject to one person. Ward Five Councilman Randy Hammon said usually a person can state their business and make their point within three minutes, without having another person speak on that subject.

    "We don't want two presentations on the same thing," Hammon said. "If they can't do it in three minutes, they need to come get with us to discuss it with us."

    The council could vote on the new policy in November.