The Lander City Council discussed its public comment protocols during a work session this week, outlining plans to update the rules to allow people to speak without signing up beforehand.
“I do not like the signing up in advance,” Councilmember Julia Stuble said during the meeting. “This is no surprise. You’ve heard me say this in the past. I think that chills the input we could have, (and) I want us to be able to have an environment that allows for robust public engagement. … I would strike that portion.”
“That can come out,” Lander Mayor Monte Richardson replied.
‘Somebody to listen’
The council also expressed a desire this week to allow public comment on any topic, without limiting speakers to agenda items.
“I think it should be open,” Councilmember Dan Hahn said. “They should be able to ask any question they want. … It’s just friendly. It just lets them speak their mind.”
Councilmember Josh Hahn agreed, noting that the council also plans to limit public comment to three minutes per person.
“(Let’s) hear what they have to say,” he said. “Sometimes that’s all they need, is somebody to listen.”
City attorney Adam Phillips explained that some municipalities limit public comment to topics already on the agenda in order to focus on accomplishing council business, and he suggested that regularly scheduled town hall meetings might be more appropriate forums for accepting general public comment.
Councilmembers said they were interested in the idea of hosting town hall sessions, but they still didn’t want public comment to be limited to agenda item topics.
Councilmember Missy White had pointed out that limiting public comment to agenda item topics keeps the council from being “pulled into (the) weeds” of a “communal tit for tat” that isn’t under the “purview” of city government.
But Dan Hahn didn’t think that would be a problem.
“I personally don’t think we’re going to have a runaway here,” he said, adding, “If it turns into (that), I’m pretty sure that we can change what we’re talking about tonight.”
Richardson said he would work with staff to produce a revised public comment protocol based on the feedback from the meeting.
For more information call the City of Lander at 332-2870.