Council should move public comments to end of agenda

Little Falls City Council Member Loren Boyum brought some thoughtful comments to a recent meeting about how to handle public comments at meetings unrelated to the Council’s written agenda.

We understand the concern because sometimes a few citizens’ personal agendas can disrupt the Council, causing it to take longer than necessary to conduct the business at hand.

The Council has been wrestling with this issue for some time, and has put time limits on how long any individual can speak, then modified the time limits, then changed the timing for public comments unrelated to the written agenda, etc.

Boyum’s suggestion is to eliminate the public comment period entirely. However, we think that goes too far. About the time the Council thinks that nothing relevant will ever come out of the public comments, somebody will show up with information about a park or sidewalk or a city employee that the Council needs to hear.

Granted, there are a number of ways to approach a Council member. It doesn’t have to be at a public meeting. It can be by phone, telephone or email.

While those who are politically active understand that, others in the community don’t and think if they want the Council to know something, they ought to show up at a meeting. The Council needs to accommodate them.

That said, we recommend moving the public comment session to the very end of the regular Council meeting. Limit the period to up to 15 minutes total and allow up to five different speakers up to three minutes each. Have a sign-up sheet at the meeting, first come, first served.

At the beginning of the public comments, tell those present if the sign-up sheet is full that they are welcome to approach Council members individually after the meeting.

That way, speakers will have to wait while the Council works on the priority matters on the agenda. Nobody has to attend the entire meeting, but those that want to make a public comment will take their chances on being among the first five to sign up. If they aren’t present when their name is called, the Council has no obligation to wait for them to return

Fifteen minutes of comments won’t kill the Council, and will demonstrate it is open to new information and varying viewpoints.

  • robin hensel

    Council has been performing real circus stunts for the last 2+ years in an attempt to ignore my city service delivery citizen appeals …agenda items and public forum comments. I will be writing soon the synopsis of their two year escapade.

    • Rick Witte

      Robin, you pretend that you have not been an integral part of what you deem a “circus”. It seems, from my observation, that you have heavily involved with the performance.

      The public forum portion of the meeting is meant for those citizens who have issues they wish the Council to consider. Not for a citizen to utilize as their de facto seat on the Council. You seem to have way more issue than the average citizen.

      I wait with baited breath for our version of reality.

      • robin hensel

        So rick…how many council work sessions or council meetings have you attended in the last 2+ years?

        • Rick Witte

          Wouldnt you like to know!

          • robin hensel

            Rick Witte….that’s a rather snippy response…..haven’t you heard about the “Kindness Campaign” launched in town/county awhile back? Did I hit a nerve? I believe I may know you.

      • robin hensel

        Rick Witte…..it should be occurring to you and everyone else in this community that I am not “the average citizen.” I have a lot of genuine concern that proper ethics as well as the laws are not being followed in my quaint little river town. I have only brought serious city related issues in any and all of my public comments whether they were made during citizen appeals, petitions, agenda items or public forum comments. Stay tuned…..it’s gonna get real hot roun hea soon. Temperature gonna be risin for sure. I will lay out the full antics of the council soon, for all to see just what great lengths they have gone to, just to try to shut me up.

      • Jody Scott Olson

        What I think is repeatedly overlooked is the fact that Robin Hensel is right on the issues she raises. Most community members and you focus on her signs, or her performance art but the fact is she’s never been served with a defamation suit for calling this city council “lawless”. And this is a city whose history is to strike at her at every opportunity and in anyway they can, so why do you suppose that is?

        For instance, at one meeting Brian Crowder correctly called into question fundraising issues regarding the splash pad. Crowder asked if the city had to return splash pad donations if the splash pad wasn’t built and VR said no. When in fact all donations earmarked for a specific project have to be returned if not used for the purpose the donor intended. This happened after issues were raised regarding the fundraising of the Mayor’s Youth Task force, which I now understand has stopped fundraising to apply for non profit status. And yet, after advising council in correctly twice the issue of a donation to Chaplain Gregg Valentine is raised.

        After years of fundraising, Valentine admitted he wasn’t a non profit…which of course I knew from past experience. Even though VR was completely wrong on fundraising in the past, when Crowder raises the issue of making a donation to Valentine who is not a non profit, VR once again asserts her opinion and says that he doesn’t have to be…which is once again wrong. The state threshold according to the Attorney General, for fundraising without non profit status is 2500.00 for the entire year. The donation given was 3K. Also the donation can’t be solcited by a person who is in a paid capacity and Valentine isn’t a volunteer.

        Lawless.

        After being dead wrong repeatedly, VR continues to advise the council without checking her facts. And ALL council members, despite her history of being entirely WRONG about fundraising, listen to her…except for Alderman Brian Crowder.

  • Rick Witte

    I would agree with the position of the Record on the matter of the public forum. Any governing body should allow citizens to bring forth their concerns and address the Council as a body. Certainly they are still able to discuss issues with members individually, but doing so in person should not be eliminated simply because that option exists.

    • robin hensel

      The poll the mcrecord took on whether to eliminate public forum comment time overwhelmingly showed the public was in favor of keeping it. Council kept it as is…..good on them.

      • Rick Witte

        Robin, if you are referring to the poll accompanying this opinion piece it seems the leading opinions are in reference to whether or not the forum should be at the beginning or end of the Council meeting. That, in of itself, does not mean that the public is against any other changes. Whether they be changes proposed by the Record or any other changes the Council may formulate.

        • robin hensel

          Rick….as you are aware since you were present to hear the council vote…..council voted 6-2 to keep the public forum comment time as is. All except Loren Boyum and LeeAnn Doucette. Lee Ann will regret that vote come election time. Loren will also, eventually.

  • Jody Scott Olson

    The delays have not occurred as a result of anyone in the community. The delays have been caused by council members disrupting speakers who are respectfully presenting content that they object to. Unfortunately, when you represent a community you represent diverse points of view and all views, whether council members agree or not, should be respectfully welcomed.

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