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story.lead_photo.caption The city of Fayetteville logo is seen at City Hall on Feb. 14, 2017. (File photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Members of a City Council advisory committee on Friday discussed ways the public could sign up to speak about agenda items electronically and how a timer could be displayed while people speak.

The committee approved a draft of a proposal on public comments for the full council to consider.

Questions?

For any questions about the proposed changes to the rules of council meeting procedure, email:

The City Clerk’s Office at cityclerk@fayetteville-ar.gov, or City Attorney Kit Williams at kwilliams@fayetteville-ar.gov

The draft has two sections. One covers the time allotted for city staff and applicants of agenda items, such as developers, property owners, engineers, construction contractors or architects, to make a presentation. The other section is on rules for the public to follow while speaking.

The council's ordinance review committee, consisting of four members, has been discussing ways to shorten the length of full council meetings and make them more efficient.

Under the proposal, members of the public would have until the time public comment begins on an item to sign up to speak about it. Typically during council meetings, Mayor Lioneld Jordan will hear from city staff, then the applicant and take questions from the council before opening the floor to the public.

Committee members talked about different ways to implement the sign-up process during Friday's meeting, which was held online via Zoom. Consensus was to allow people to sign up on a piece of paper until the meeting begins, but to allow them to sign up online through a mobile device after the meeting starts.

Council Member Matthew Petty said he would consult with Jordan's chief of staff, Susan Norton, the city clerk and information technology staff on whether that would be feasible.

"If we say there should be a sign-up sheet, and we should be as forgiving as possible, I am comfortable trusting them to implement that, understanding we may need to wordsmith the particular language of the rules," Petty said.

He also suggested anyone who didn't have a chance to sign up to speak on an item could approach the council and ask to speak, and the council could grant the person time with unanimous consent or, if a council member objects, a majority vote.

Council Member Sloan Scroggin agreed the sign-up process should be lenient.

"A lot of the reasons people feel the need to speak are because one of the council members says something," he said.

Rather than reduce the amount of time someone from the public could speak, the committee decided the counter should display different colors. Petty suggested green for 2 minutes, yellow for 1 minute and red for another 2 minutes, adding up to the normal 5-minute limit.

Another proposed change is to only allow public comment on amendments to agenda items with unanimous consent or a majority vote from the council, and, if granted, limit comments to 3 minutes.

Any member of the public could be granted more speaking time on any item with unanimous consent or a majority vote.

The administration will review the proposed changes over the next few weeks. The full City Council will have to approve changes to its rules.

NW News on 05/23/2020

Print Headline: Committee hones guidelines for public comment

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