Rules on public hearings and comments at Columbia City Council meetings are about to be updated for the first time in 38 years.
Council members discussed potential changes at their regular meeting Monday night. The proposed changes include an elimination of the requirement that speakers provide their addresses before commenting and codifying the current practice of limiting people to three minutes of speaking time for one public comment or five minutes for those who represent organizations. A 1981 rule says everyone has five minutes, according to a staff memo to the council.
The memo mentioned several other potential changes, including:
- Limiting the total time a person can speak during a meeting to six minutes.
- Adjourning council meetings at 11 p.m. On those occasions, the council would review the agenda at 10 p.m. and decide what to act on and what to postpone.
Mayor Brian Treece said requiring speakers to reveal an address in a meeting aired live raises privacy concerns. Speakers instead could fill out a paper form to provide personal information.
Treece said people can “quickly Google someone, watching this at home, and know exactly what their address is and where they live.”
Treece also supported codifying rules restricting profanity and demonstrative acts during City Council meetings. The current rules have no such restrictions.
Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp said the council needs a definition for an organization if it wants to allow people who represent one more time to speak than others.
“Almost everybody represents an organization,” he said.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said three minutes is sufficient for any speaker.
“If somebody wants to announce that they’re with an organization, or they want to get somebody to stand up in support or something,” Skala said, “they have that option to do that within a three-minute period.”
The council asked the city clerk and the law department to make a draft of new rules and a sample template for a paper form that speakers could fill out.
Council members agreed to discuss the draft and template at the next council meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 2.