Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

CITY COUNCIL; More 'Mike' at Night

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

CITY COUNCIL; More 'Mike' at Night

Article excerpt

City Council member Denise Lee has the right idea: more public feedback at City Council meetings.

Lee is sponsoring legislation that would add a second public comment period at the end of the every-other-week City Council meetings.

The current general public comment period comes around 6 p.m. at each full council meeting, although the public can comment during public hearings on specific bills.

The council had a second comment period from 1994 to 2006 but folded it into one block as part of an revamping of council meetings.

Lee is convinced more public input is better, particularly at a time when she sees people becoming more frustrated and cynical about their government.

"We are not above the people we serve," Lee said. "People want answers. We might not always be able to give them answers, but at least we can listen."

Lee, who introduced the legislation last year, has called a meeting with City Council Vice President Jack Webb at City Hall today to flush out how this might work.

TRANSFERRING TIME A MINEFIELD

The public is given three minutes to speak on a topic before the council moves on to specific legislation.

Aside from the public comment period, the public has chances to speak for three minutes at full City Council meetings during public hearings on individual bills but must stay on the bill topic.

Lee's bill would add the second public comment at the end of council meetings and give speakers who are present the ability to transfer their time to another speaker to allow that speaker to engage the council for up to nine minutes total.

The council allowed the practice of transferring time in the late 1980s and early 1990s. There are accounts about creative abuses of the system.

Some people filled out council speaker cards with fictitious names of those who had "granted" their time to another speaker. …

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