Yesterday we noted that the city council would be briefed today on two minor changes to rules governing public speakers, chief among them a proposal from Acting City Secretary Rosa Rios's office that trims speakers' three minutes at the mic to a mere 60 seconds if they're coming back within 30 days of addressing the council. But when that item goes up for a vote December 14, that part of the proposal will be excised: Every council member who spoke on the subject moments ago said that "three minutes is an appropriate time," in the words of Linda Koop.
Said Ann Margolin, "I don't see any reason for [the proposal] other than what appears to be our convenience"; Sandy Greyson concurred, as did Tennell Atkins, Scott Griggs, Angela Hunt and Sheffie Kadane. Said Griggs, "Giving people a soapbox is one of our obligations."
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At which point Mayor Mike Rawlings said, OK, fine: "But I am not going to be sitting here while everyone else bails. We've gotta treat these people with respect."
Rawlings mentioned that because on occasion, council members will leave the horseshoe when folks take to the mic. That's because according to the rules, council members don't have to stick around unless there's a vote to be taken on a particular item. But rules also say that even if everyone else opts to scoot, the mayor has to stick around. At which point a lengthy discussion broke out about perhaps changing those rules to force everyone to stay, no matter what.
Carolyn Davis and Vonciel Jones Hill also made it clear they're unhappy with the fact someone from the City Secretary's Office sits in meetings to keep tabs on council members' comings and goings; Hill said it's a "dumb" rule, and she said it often.
"I'm not trying to over-legislate here," Rawlings said. "But in the spirit of candor, the folks we are speaking about, we have the power to suspend the rules at any time. We can let them speak for a long period of time. We [occasionally] have a group of people who are not on topic on the issues we are focused on, but if we want to do that, let's do it."