A committee assigned to review and recommend changes to rules regulating public comment during city meetings explored a number of options Monday during its first meeting.
Ward IV Councilor Wayne Johnson, who requested the review, said the gathering was intended as an opportunity to get some insight into how other cities conduct public meetings.
It also provided a chance for committee members to share their observations and concerns about current rules and how they are enforced. Johnson said his primary concern is with inconsistencies in the application of the rules, but conduct is clearly another even though the present ordinance already discourages “derogatory personal, impertinent or slanderous remarks.”
“When you flip the microphone on and say something offensive and a councilor cannot respond, there can be immediate damage to somebody’s reputation,” Johnson said. “I think there has been slander — not intentional — directed toward employees and staff. This is not the forum for that.”
Ward IV Councilor Kenny Payne said the rules of decorum “works both ways” and “everybody who steps up to the microphone deserves some respect.”
“As council members, we need to be mindful of that,” he said. “Those people at the mic put us here, and if the time comes (when) we can’t listen to them, it’s time we move on.”
Johnson and other members of the committee — made up of three city councilors, two administrators and two citizens — made it clear they have no intention to cut citizens out of the debate.
Some consideration was given to the idea to have a comment period regarding agenda items before they are considered by councilors and a second for concerns not identified on the agenda.
Another proposal would require citizens to sign up in advance of a meeting so concerns might be addressed and resolved beforehand.
Johnson said citizens will get a chance to weigh in when the committee meets again Sept. 10.
The meeting will consist of 45 minutes set aside for public comment, with individuals being limited initially to five minutes each. Committee members will then discuss for 15 minutes the comments presented.
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or email@example.com.
If you go
WHAT: Committee on council decorum to hear public concerns and comments regarding proposed changes to City Council policies and ordinance regulating public comments and conduct during city meetings.
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Sept. 10.
WHERE: City Council Chambers, Third Floor, Muskogee Municipal Building, 229 W. Okmulgee Ave.