A June 13, 2013 meeting of the Ann Arbor city council’s rules committee has resulted in proposed revisions to the council’s rules, many of which affect speaking turns and time – for members of the public and for councilmembers.
An across-the-board proposed change for city council meeting public speaking times is a reduction from three minutes to two minutes for each turn. The two councilmember speaking turns per question are proposed to be reduced from five to three minutes, and from three to two minutes.
The revisions will be considered by the full council at its June 17 meeting, as agenda item 13-0767. [.pdf of marked up rules for June 17, 2013 council meeting]
There are two obvious reasons why this might come up on the council rules agenda. One the presence of an individual (Tom Partridge) who generally uses every single public comment time available to him to speak his piece; in a single meeting, Partridge might account for 20+ minutes of public comment time. A second reason is the very effective "citizens filibuster" that several organized opposition groups have used to talk Council into the wee hours of the morning during public hearings. A well-organized group can bring forty or fifty people to the dais, accounting for two hours plus of a public hearing.
Reducing public comment time from 3 minutes to 2 minutes will slow down the frequent commenter, and additional rules to restrict individuals from commenting at successive sessions will further cut into their time and leave room for others to speak. Capping citizens participation time to 2 minutes during public hearings is less likely to have an impact on total meeting times, however. A group that's capable of corralling 45 citizens to speak out will just have to get 68 in front of the cameras to make the same point. Never underestimate the number of issues where the irate citizenry will work as hard as they can to make an impact on their elected decisionmakers.
Having a robust public process can be mighty inconvenient at times.