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Maybe Changes To Input at City Council Meetings

February 2, 2012, 9:53 PM by Brady Mallory

Maybe Changes To Input at City Council Meetings
SIOUX FALLS, SD - The Sioux Falls City Council is exploring different ways of hearing public input at meetings.

Right now, citizens have five minutes each to comment right away during a typical hour and a half meeting, but that could change.

Part of this discussion involves looking at how other city councils around this part of the Midwest handle public input.  Interim City Clerk Sue Roust says South Dakota is pretty open with it.

"What really surprised me was the number of places that don't allow public input.  Minneapolis, St. Paul, Omaha, Fargo, Bismarck," Interim City Clerk Sue Roust said.

Roust has done quite a bit of research because the Sioux Falls City Council might tweak a section of its meeting for comments from the public. One idea would move the time you give your input from the beginning to the end of the meeting.

"Any move to push public input to the back of the meeting is a move to squelch public comment," Andy Traub said.

Traub is a familiar face at council meetings, often sharing his opinions. He thinks possibly moving public input is an attempt for city leaders to avoid criticisms from voters.

"The mayor and council really trying to control the public voice. We elected them, and now it's sort of like they're saying, 'Thanks for the job.  Now shut up and let us do our job.'  That's not democracy," Traub said.

One city council member sees possibly moving the time as a courtesy for people who have signed up to be on the meeting agenda. 

"We have scheduled items we have citizens coming in for.  Like neighborhood issues, (people) expecting their issues to come up and sometimes they have to sit through only five minutes, but sometimes 35 or 45 minutes of public input," City Council Member Vernon Brown said.

Brown said moving it to the end could help make the meetings more focused on what is on the agenda and allowing people to talk at the end might help them listen to other city issues.

"To me, it's a little frustrating when you see people come in for public input, come in a whim, spend five minutes on an issue and then leave," Brown said.

Right now, the council is not pursuing any actual change to public input placement. It is an on-going discussion and members could look at it more closely during an upcoming working session.

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