Thursday, October 11, 2018

McKinney's New Citizen Comment Policy--Why?

The city of McKinney created a new citizen comment policy at the 10/1/18 Work Session. Watch the video here.

Old Policy
New Policy
Unrestricted 1st session (start of meeting) public comments, both agenda item and general public comments allowed in any order

Restricted 1st session public comments are for that night’s agenda-specific item public comments only and the limit is 30 minutes
Unrestricted  2nd session (end of meeting) public comments, both agenda item and general public comments allowed in any order
General citizen comments moved to 2nd session only.
General citizen comments include: work session items that weren’t on agenda, general city questions or concerns, thank you items, etc.

City Council meeting chairperson could limit or extend each public comment period
City Council meeting chairperson can still limit or extend each public comment period

The reason given for the changes is that meetings go too long if 1st session citizen comments are not restricted. Here is a recent Dallas Morning News article about the decision made and why.

This reason does not make sense because the city rarely has large groups of citizens speak at meetings. Why must we require citizens to wait until the end of meetings for general comments when these long interruptions rarely happen? Wouldn't it make more sense to create a policy for those rare instances?

I analyzed all the regular City Council meetings since January of this year. I measured how many citizens spoke, what they commented on, whether the comment was related to agenda item or not, and the total length of time the comments took to see if we have a such a big problem with our meetings being taken over or hijacked with long citizen comment sessions.

I found that out of 18 meetings this year, only 4 of them went over the 30 minute period City Council was comfortable with allowing for 1st session comment time. I also marked the general comments in red because those are the ones that will be lost if they are relegated to the end of City Council meetings per the new policy. If you look, the general comments are important and often timely. They also easily fall within the 30 minute time frame.

There are other solutions that would preserve the citizen voice without dragging meetings out. By allowing general comments in the 1st session after item specific comments all within a 30 minute cap, citizens would not lose anything. No serious and community informational comments will be lost this way.

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