City council needs to reign in speakers

Published 4:00 am Saturday, December 24, 2016


Months ago, there was a push by some members in the community to allow for five minutes per speaker at city council meetings.

We supported that push. Going from three to five minutes would have added, on average, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes per meeting. However, the city council did away with time limits altogether, and in the months since, three-hour council meetings have become commonplace.

This needs to stop.

First, city business is the most important issue at these meetings. When that business is delayed or confused by numerous lengthy public speeches, the city suffers.

Second, we should encourage more public participation, not less. The fact is, a three-hour meeting is not something most people will attend and it has become common for members of the public to drift out of the meeting, the longer it wears on.

The city has allowed several recent guest speakers to make lengthy presentations at the top of the meeting. Sometimes the presentations have had little to do with the business at hand. But quite often, the people making the presentations leave well before the meeting is over, meaning that whatever announcement a member of the public might wish to make will have a smaller audience. This is not fair.

Finally, there is no reason the city should pay overtime to maintenance and custodial staff who must stay late simply because members from the public feel like talking endlessly. The city should not have to pay extra because a few people want to hold needlessly lengthy meetings.

There is a quick, simple fix for all of this — a five-minute limit. We hope the city council makes it.