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City commission to consider rule changes, including start time of 10 a.m.

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

The Gainesville City Commission will consider a resolution at its December 2 meeting to revise the procedural rules for commission meetings. The commission discussed the proposed changes at the October 28 General Policy Committee meeting and directed staff to bring back a draft resolution; that resolution is on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting.

The biggest change is the starting time for regular meetings: if the resolution passes, meetings will begin at 10:00 a.m. instead of 1:00 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of every month, beginning immediately.

The draft resolution also states that the commission will adopt the consent and regular agendas as a single agenda item, with a single comment period for both agendas. During the discussion about the proposed rule changes, commissioners expressed a desire to have as much discussion as possible in the daytime to avoid late-night meetings, so the new rules specify that resolutions and ordinances will be considered in the early session unless they are mandated by statute to be heard in the evening. This means that more of the commission’s business will be done during the daytime, when many people are at work, but Mayor Lauren Poe argued on October 28 that “we have such a huge population of our city, they don’t work a 9 to 5 or an 8 to 4 job. We’ve got all of these folks at the hospital that work overnight, all these service workers.”

Proclamations and special recognitions remain in the evening session, beginning at 5:30.

While the presiding officer will be able to decide to take public comment at multiple points in the consideration of a single agenda item (for example, if multiple motions are made that are different enough), the rules now state that public comment will normally be taken once per agenda item.

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The previous version of the rules called for public comment at the end of each special meeting or workshop, “time permitting.” The new rules specify that public comment is only required on specific agenda items at those meetings, “as stated on the Notice of Meetings.” General public comment “may be allowed by the Commission at the end of the meeting, if added upon the adoption of the agenda and time permitting.”

Staff declined to implement some of the rules proposed by Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos and passed on a 5-1 vote on October 28: The commission voted to include a provision that public comment cannot be used to advocate for a candidate running for office, but a note in the introduction to the resolution states, “Suggests an improper, content-based regulation of speech given the nature of the public forum.”

The commission also voted to implement a requirement that members of the public who wish to speak must submit “speaker cards,” with space for the speaker’s name, whether they are for or against the item, and their address or City district. The staff note states, “Inconsistent with existing ‘live call-in’ provision of Rule 10.B.1. Presiding officer may request speakers ‘sign up’ to ensure sufficient time and order.”

A third provision, to offer language translation services if a speaker requested it in advance, was not implemented, with this note: “Presently no change. Refer to the Language Access Working Group.”

A fourth provision, regarding decorum for comments by both the public and the commission (“no vulgar language or gestures… no discourteous, disrespectful, or disparaging conduct”) was not implemented because it is “already contemplated” in a rule governing disruptive behavior.

The new rules will be discussed in the evening session (beginning at 5:30 p.m.) of the city commission’s regular meeting on Thursday, December 2.

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