SHORELINE — The Council is in the process of implementing a few changes to the Council Rules of Procedure, in the hope of better conducting their affairs.
After last month’s Council retreat, members fine-tuned a few changes at the Monday, May 15 workshop meeting, with the intention of better balancing the need for public input with the need of the Council to conduct business in a timely manner.
No action was taken by the Council, other than to make recommendations for final changes.
Resident Mark Deutsch was the only citizen to address the Council on the topic, and referenced the three community forums held more than a year ago to gather public input on the community input process after citizens raised concerns.
“I am surprised at how few people are here to comment,” Deutsch said, “due to the forums last year.”
Deutsch was surprised at the proposal to reduce general comments to two minutes if there are more than 10 people signed up to speak during general public comment, saying it would not provide citizens with adequate time to comment on issues. He did not see encouragement for public comment, he said.
The issue of whether to require speakers from specific organizations to register with the city before being allotted an extra two minutes was discussed at length. Currently, speakers from organizations receive five minutes to comment while other residents receive three minutes.
Councilman Ron Hansen suggested members of organizations should be required to register with the city clerk’s office.
Councilwoman Janet Way felt, however, that requiring an organization to register is a “serious infringement” on constitutional rights.
“We want to make this a welcoming place,” agreed deputy mayor Maggie Fimia. “We need to ask if they are registered with the state and take their word.”
There also was discussion about keeping a list of organizations with the city clerk, which Fimia said could be helpful for public outreach. Way, however, said although it would be useful, she did not want residents to feel that if they form a group, they must register with the city.
“I find this onerous,” Way said.
Councilman Keith McGlashan was concerned with the issue of community presentations. The Council has proposed making available a community meeting at the second business meeting of each month, with the intent of providing a means for non-profit organizations or government agencies to inform the Council and public about a specific problem or need.
If there is a group of people who provide input on a controversial topic, he wondered how the council could address a group with an opposing view in a timely manner.
City manager Bob Olander suggested adding language to the rules of procedure to give precedence to groups with opposing points, while also being flexible with scheduling.