Citizen comment will move back to the beginning of the voting meetings for Glendale City Council about a month from now, as members of that public body decided last week to make the comment process more convenient.
“Our meetings are at 6 p.m. That’s dinnertime, that’s rush hour for a lot of families,” said Councilmember Lauren Tolmachoff, who requested the issue become a council item of special interest two months ago.
City Clerk Pam Hanna told the council at its April 7 workshop that public comment has occurred at the end of its voting meetings for at least two decades, except for a few months between September 2013 and January 2014.
She also reported that about two-thirds of Valley cities place general public comment on non-agenda items, which they generally limit to three minutes per person, at the beginning of their meetings.
One member of the council pointed to some disadvantages in Tolmachoff’s proposal.
“When you have our non-agenda folks speaking upfront, and typically it’s probably no worse than a half hour,” then people who have business with the city have to wait and citizen comments can dampen the mood of the meeting, said Gary Sherwood.
A few other colleagues on the council said they welcomed comments from the public.
“I just don’t see what the problem is allowing our citizens a voice at the beginning if they have to go home and take care of household needs and put their kids to bed,” said Mayor Jerry Weiers.
“The common public, if they’re showing up and wanting to speak, there’s probably something really pressing on their mind,” said Vice Mayor Ian Hugh.
“Sometimes, I think the public comments is the best part of our meeting,” said Bart Turner.
Jamie Aldama encouraged viewers of that televised meeting to “please come to the meetings and speak your hearts out and bring those concerns and ideas to us.”
“Never do I want to be a part of stifling someone’s speech, their right to speak,” said Sammy Chavira.
The council reached a consensus during that meeting to move citizen comment back to the beginning of its voting meetings and to keep the time limit at three minutes per speaker.
The City Clerk’s Office indicated a couple days later that a resolution making those changes will come before the council at its April 28 meeting. The new procedure for comments will be in place by the May 12 meeting.
Comment cards, filled out by citizens who wish to speak during the meeting, might be accepted up to the end of the prayer or invocation, with the mayor making the final decision, according to Tamra Ingersoll, a spokesperson for the city.
“At this point we have no plans to allow for signing up ahead of the actual meeting,” she added.