Akron City Council Expands Public Comment Opportunities

According to this article (it appeared in today's Plain Dealer, but was originally in the Akron Beacon Journal a couple of days ago), Akron City Council did not permit citizen commenting during council meetings, unless a public hearing was being held on a specific topic.
People wishing to speak when a hearing isn't scheduled must submit a written request to the clerk's office the day before the meeting. The requests are forwarded to the council member who chairs the committee in charge of the topic the resident wishes to address.
Now, however, as the result of one of many suggestions related to Akron's charter review process (you can see the commission's report here; Akron has their charter reviewed every ten years; Pepper Pike's charter provides for no charter review and has not in fact ever been reviewed systematically the way other cities review theirs on a routine, as-required by their charter basis):

Beginning next week, the council will permit a half-hour open mic before the regularly scheduled 7 p.m. council meetings for anyone who wants to talk about anything.
One member of the council — the first week it will be Jim Hurley, who represents Ward 1 — along with representatives of the administration, will listen to the comments.
Council President Marco Sommerville said this will ''provide another layer to better assist the citizens of Akron.''

Sommerville made the change in response to a petition drive by former Akron Councilman Ernie Tarle for a charter change that would require a half-hour public comment period during council meetings and 15 minutes during committee meetings.
Sommerville said the change would be an experiment and a group may still be formed to take a look at whether additional opportunities for comment are needed.
The article seems to indicate that there will be a three-minute speaking time limit.

What I really like about this story is that the change was driven by a voter, albeit a former member of Akron's city council.  Personally, I don't think matters should have to go to a petition drive in order to get changes but never say never - there can be those times (whether I'm on or off council).  However, in this instance, the current Council President appears to be implementing the full request made by the former council member.

I have not followed this debate in Akron, but I wanted to highlight this article as an example of how to change government.

1 comment:

Ari Herzog said...

The Newburyport City Council rules allow any person (resident or other) to make a 3-minute public comment at the beginning of any council meeting (after the Pledge of Allegiance and before the agenda begins) on any item on that agenda. People write their names and street addresses and topics on a board hung on the door before the meeting begins.