Following an executive session last Monday the City Council tabled voting on Resolution 2013-05, which sets rules and procedures for "citizen participation" at city council meetings.
City Administrator Ed Truelove presented the resolution during a regular meeting on Feb. 4, which is intended to update and replace a previous ordinance enacted after the May 4, 2007 tornado.
The three-page document sets rules and requirements for members of the public attending city council meetings and/or speaking to council members during open session.
The document distinguishes differences between regular city council meetings and “work sessions.”
A work session is typically an open meeting that takes place outside of the regular meeting schedule for a specific purpose and is chaired by the mayor. City officials hold work sessions to address budgets and complex projects that require extended discussion.
The resolution excludes public comment during work sessions, unless recognized by the chair.
Residents who want to address the city council during the public comment section will have to adhere to specific procedures, according to the proposed document.
Commentators would be required to raise their hand, wait to be recognized and “speak from the podium in a civil, non-argumentative and respectful manner” for no more than five minutes, although time limits could be extended or truncated.
The document also states “all remarks should be directed to the City Council as a body rather than to any particular Council member or…staff.”
The resolution also requires speakers to refrain from profanity, yelling, screaming or “language likely to incite violence.”
Comments on agenda items are only allowed if requested by the mayor.
Section five deals with audience decorum and attendee behavior.
Clapping, commenting, shouting, booing, private conversations and/or addressing individual council members will be prohibited.
Speaking on Monday, Truelove said he did not introduce the resolution at the request of the mayor or a city council member, but that an update of the previous ‘citizen participation’ resolution was needed.
He said the resolution was crafted based on conversations and input from the Kansas League of Municipalities and “other attorneys” including newly elected Kiowa County Attorney J. Scott James.
“I think for the most part it’s a good resolution,” said councilman Matt Christenson. “[We didn’t vote on it] because there were some adjustments we wanted to see.”
Christenson said the council wanted minor changes made to some of the language, but he expects it to be nearly the same when the council puts it to a vote next week.
Page 2 of 2 - It is unclear how city officials would handle a violation.
The final provision of the resolution addresses recording of city council meetings.
Similar in scope to the resolution passed by Kiowa County Commissioners last May (see “Media Center finds mixed results in recording requests” April 25, 2012), a key portion of the provision requires operators to remain with their equipment for the duration of recording.
Truelove noted that another part of the provision allows the city council to approve exceptions to any of the general rules.
Since April 2012, the Kiowa County Media Center (KCMC) has recorded the first city council meeting of each month, hosting the videos on its YouTube page. The videos have received about 500 total views, averaging 57 views a month.
KCMC staff placed an un-manned camera against the back wall of the city council chamber, recorded the meeting, then returned at the end of the meeting to retrieve the camera and tape. Videos of the meetings were usually on-line within a few days.
Speaking on Monday KCMC Programming Director Grant Neuhold said they have suspended the recording of city council meetings indefinitely.
“We’re short on manpower,” said Neuhold. “We provided that public service to the community to the best of our ability, but we won’t be able to do it any longer.”
Neuhold, currently the only fulltime KCMC employee, said his time commitment to other projects would prevent him from being able to remain with the equipment for the duration of the meeting.
City council meetings can last between 20-90 minutes.
Councilman Christenson, serving double-duty as the president of the KCMC and an elected official said he was not opposed to the resolution despite the immediate impact on KCMC’s ability to record council meetings.
“We want whoever is recording the meetings, be it the Media Center or someone else, to abide by the same rules,” said Christenson. “We also want to make sure it isn’t disruptive to either the meeting or the city, during or after the meeting. But, even before this came before the council the media center had the discussions about ‘do we have the time and manpower to continue doing this?’ [The Media Center] is getting busier, which is great, so we need to choose our battles. We are trying to allocate our resources as efficiently as possible.”
The city council is expected to vote on the resolution at their regular meeting on Feb. 18.