Council discusses public comments

Time for the public to comment at city council meetings could shrink.

The Port Orchard City Council discussed when to allow comments from the public at regular business meetings during Wednesday’s city council work-study meeting.

The city council allows public comments at the beginning and end of the regular business meetings. Commenters are supposed to limit their time to three minutes in front of the council. The council also informally allows public discussion during business items on the agenda.

But allowing public comment throughout the meeting will stop. The council decided Wednesday to not allow comments during business items. They would also restrict the public comment to three minutes, a time restriction that the council often overlooks. If a member of the public wanted to speak for more than three minutes, they would be advised to attend a committee meeting, where they could talk about their subject.

“It’s the council’s meeting,” said council member John Clauson, advocating to limit public comments to beginning and end of the meetings.

No state law governs public comment rules at municipalities or counties.

Council member Fred Chang proposed the discussion at the monthly work-study meeting because he wanted to clear up exactly when and how comments from the public are allowed.

Chang said the city hasn’t remained consistent on when and where to address comments. After Wednesday’s meeting, he was afraid some ambiguity in the rules still existed, he said.

“We still need to make some firm rules,” he said. “We should have rules we use for everyone the same”

Not everyone on the city council seemed to agree that they should restrict public comment. Council member Carolyn Powers suggested the council respond to each person who offers a public comment. Too often, she said, the council listens to a public comment and doesn’t respond.

“We just sit there and that person gets away and we don’t respond,” she said. “There has to be some sort of response to that issue.”


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