Public meetings - what say you?

Public meetings - what say you?

Helen Humphrys
on Feb 19, 2013

Jill Miller Zimon thoughts follow my own. As a township trustee, I truly believe in "For the People, By the People" Copley Township's Board of Trustees'meetings are not only open to the public but engages the public within their meetings. Business from the floor comments are not timed but we do ask that if more than one person is addressing the same subject matter (usually a neighborhood issue) then we ask that they choose a spokesperson to speak on their behalf. Try it, it works.

Participants (4)

What do you think?

Anonymous
on 2014-04-18T13:19:30+00:00
Login or Register to contribute to this conversation

Recent Activity

Jason Segedy
on Feb 19, 2013
"Thank you!  This is great stuff that rings completely true.  I hope to incorporate a lot of these..."
Jill Miller Zimon
on Feb 19, 2013
"Word. Also, check out this video - it's not that long but I think you will really, really..."
Jason Segedy
on Feb 19, 2013
"Thanks, Jill.  I agree, and share your (and Helen's) passion for the concept of public officials..."
Jill Miller Zimon
on Feb 19, 2013
"Thanks for that link, Jason - that is great. I would love to see a searchable repository of all..."
Jason Segedy
on Feb 19, 2013
"A quick thought on public participation at meetings:  Several years ago, when I became Director..."
Jill Miller Zimon
on Feb 19, 2013
"Helen, I love the simplicity and elegance of that suggestion. I have seen that too at our..."

Helen Humphrys

Helen Humphrys - 2014-04-18T13:19:31+00:00 - "Jill Miller Zimon thoughts follow my own. As a township trustee, I truly believe in "For the..."

Continue Reading

Jason Segedy
on Feb 19, 2013 - 12:20 pm

A quick thought on public participation at meetings:  Several years ago, when I became Director of AMATS, we re-evaluated our public participation plan.  One of the changes that we made was to eliminate a provision that stated that comments had to pertain explicitly to items on the agenda.  One of the reasons that we did this is because a legitimate public comment could certainly be "You never talk about (x) on your agenda!"  We felt it was important to give people the opportunity to tell us if they thought that we were ignoring topics that were important to them. 

Now of course, by making this change, we ran a risk of opening the door to more comments that might be considered "off-topic" or "off the wall" for a regional planning agency, but we have procedures in place (time limits, and discretion on part of the chairperson as to the relevance of subject matter) to govern this.  All in all, we felt (and feel) that more participation and more engagement is better.   

We also encourage the elected officials that sit on our decision-making body to engage with the public as individuals and to allow that engagement to inform the proceedings at our committee meetings.  

And, as a staff, we really do see it as our job to "help people" - both the public, and the elected officials that represent them.  The more we can help the two groups to connect and to have substantive dialogue with one another, the better.

I was wondering if municipal or township governments have considered making similar provisions for allowing non-agenda related topics. It would be interesting to compare and contrast public comment procedures at various entites throughout the region.

Our public participation regimen is a work in progress, but I really appreciate to engage with other public officials like yourselves in helping to craft best-practices, to learn by doing, and to transfer knowledge.

Here's a link to our public participation plan if you are interested:

http://www.amatsplanning.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Public-Participation-Plan.pdf

 

 

 

Responses(4)

Jill Miller Zimon
on Feb 19, 2013

Thanks for that link, Jason - that is great. I would love to see a searchable repository of all city, township and village code for exactly this purpose. Wouldn't that be amazing? I suspect that some states or maybe even some open efforts may be doing this - I'm not aware of it in Ohio though, in the way that Thomas does it for Congress etc.

About the public comment: in Pepper Pike, yes, we have gone back and forth on the when do you comment about what topic and we do allow audience comment specific to items on the agenda at the time they come up, as well as a general audience comment period at the end of the session. But additionally, there have been times when we've moved the audience comment to the beginning if we knew in advance about something needing that kind of accommodation.

For me, this could very quickly become a very existential conversation because I believe so fiercely in the role of the public servant deriving directly from the existence of the public. I get that we need to make decisions and that for everyone's sake, it is in our best interests to have reasonable expectations set for all the participants - electeds as well as the audience. But the whole banning further discussion - that is just extreme and I have got to believe unnecessary.

Thanks for offering a very positive example - I know there are more out there!!

 
Jason Segedy
on Feb 19, 2013

Thanks, Jill.  I agree, and share your (and Helen's) passion for the concept of public officials as public servants; where "public service" is not just something that officials say, but something that they do.

It is distressing to see efforts to ban public discussion of topics of public interest, or to see officials that seem unwilling to meet with and engage with their own constituents. Debate, deliberation, strong (sometimes angry) expression of feelings, and the realization that not everyone (perhaps no one) will leave a meeting totally satisfied, is inherent in the nature of our system. I think that's what one signs up for when one is elected (or hired) as a public official, and that it is something to be embraced and cherished, and not shyed away from, because it is a constituent part of the lifeblood of our democracy.

I've always felt that the more public decisions can be made transparently, in the full light of day; and with lots of deliberation, debate, and discussion, the better those decisions will be. I believe that ideas, policies, or decisions tested in the crucible of public deliberation, will be all the stronger for it, and deliberation is something that those ideas' greatest proponents should embrace, rather than fear.  And it's not something that requires a superhuman effort - a little bit of honesty, forthightness about one's own opinions, and a lot of empathy and charity towards others goes a long way.

 
Jill Miller Zimon
on Feb 19, 2013

Word. Also, check out this video - it's not that long but I think you will really, really appreciate it. It's of a guy named Pete Peterson (not the older billionaire person some might think of when they hear that name) who is the director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership. It specifically talks about how the citizen-elected dialogue is a two-way street and that while public servants need to engage more, that citizens need to also understand why some electeds might be so timid - there are some citizens who behave badly too. He says it really really well and respectfully.

http://ncdd.org/10232

 
Jason Segedy
on Feb 19, 2013

Thank you!  This is great stuff that rings completely true.  I hope to incorporate a lot of these ideas into our organization's work.  Great find!

 
Expand This Thread
Jill Miller Zimon
on Feb 19, 2013 - 11:50 am

Helen, I love the simplicity and elegance of that suggestion. I have seen that too at our meetings over the years. And I'll say that if I was on a council that didn't allow public comment, it absolutely would be something I'd fight for.  If we cannot think of ways to ensure public contributions in a way that benefits the community in which they live and for which we act as stewards, we really don't belong in elected office! Thanks for starting this conversation.