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Are a few people dominating citizen comment at city commission meetings?

BY JENNIFER CABRERA / AUGUST 14, 2019

In recent weeks, the narrative from the city commission and city staff has been that a few people who are “privileged” to have time to sit through city commission meetings are “showboat[ing] for the cameras” and/or wasting the time of the commission (making the meetings “less efficient”) and the public by taking multiple opportunities to speak.

First, the people who sit through meetings, week after week after month after year, are not “privileged.” Most of them are retired, and they have chosen to spend their golden years poring through agendas and the attached documents and then sitting through meetings that often last 9-10 hours. These people are often better-informed than the commissioners about the items on the agendas, and we should all be grateful to them, even if we don’t agree with everything they say. And you won’t agree with everything because these dedicated people come from all over the political spectrum. On most issues, you will see citizens stand up to speak both for and against the item being discussed.

Second, the idea that a few people dominate the meetings is false. During the August 1 City Commission meeting, I counted 86 citizen comments (Commissioner Harvey Ward counted 88). These comments were made by 43 different citizens. An agenda item regarding the Porters Community brought quite a few people, but only 13 of the comments were on that item, so this was a fairly typical meeting in terms of citizen input.

Only one person spoke more than 5 times (he spoke 16 times). One person spoke 5 times, and 3 people spoke 4 times. 3 people spoke 3 times, and 9 people spoke twice. These comments were spread over the 3 general comment periods and the 15 items on the agenda.

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It is clear that a large number of citizens speak up at city commission meetings, and only a few speak more than 2-3 times. There is no problem here. Don’t believe the narrative.

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