The Sammamish City Council Friday split over how much public comment is allowed at regular meetings and study sessions.
It’s a balance between giving the public as much latitude as possible while managing the Council’s time. Recent Council meetings had public comment sessions that have gone two hours or more. The resulted in Council meetings going past midnight vs a 10pm target.
Public comment sessions are limited today to three minutes for an individual and five minutes for a recognized group.
A long-standing problem is that recently the public often makes the same or similar point as the preceding speaker.
This contrasts with speakers handing off to the next, who talks about new information.
Some Council members suggested that Study Session comments be limited to the topics on the agenda, while the regular Council meetings periods are open to any topic.
This drew some opposition because doing so at the Study Session precludes pressing issues that come up in between regular meetings.
Some Council members favored limiting the time for public comment to a set period (an hour, for example). Others objected to this option because there might be people whose turn to speak would not arise.
Staff said public comment is valuable for staff and Council, “but there has to be a balance here.”
Best way to communicate
Council Member Tom Odell said the “best way” to communicate with the Council is after a short, succinct public comment, calling him (or any other Council member) for a one-on-one, is an opportunity for undivided attention.
Hold Town Hall meetings
Council Member Ramiro Valderrama said a Town Hall meeting dedicated to a major, controversial topic (such as the lake trail).
“It’s been three years and we’ve never had a Town Hall meeting on this,” he said.
No conclusion was reached at the Retreat. An ad h9oc committee of staff and Council will be formed to study this. Council Members Kathy Huckabay and Tom Hornish were named to the committee. A staff member will be named within a week.
The committee is to recommend two or three options. Although not set in stone, it was suggested the recommendations be presented in 30 days.