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Clamping down on comments?

Marion council considers prior notification proposal

Staff writer

Citizens wanting to take up an issue with Marion city council may find getting a chance to speak will take more work if proposed changes are adopted.

An individual who wanted to speak on a general topic at a meeting would need to sign up in advance or receive sponsorship from an elected official to get on the agenda.

The changes would eliminate the existing open forum in which an individual can raise most any topic.

“I’m looking for a consensus for the final draft of this procedure,” city administrator Roger Holter said. “Do you desire to have citizens tell us ‘I want to come address,’ or do you want it left open?”

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt and Holter said council procedures are more liberal than required by state statutes, making city government more transparent.

“I’d prefer not to have them sign up, just anything goes,” councilman Chris Costello said. “If it’s inappropriate we can shut it down.”

The mayor presides over public comment during council discussion of agenda items and public forum. Holter said the mayor can declare no public comment will be accepted on a topic at that time.

Meeting agendas state that public comment is not permitted on personnel or legal matters. They also state other public forum procedures.

The code of procedures has not been approved and is subject to change based off public and council member input before it comes up for a vote Nov. 20.

Holter said the general consensus was to remove required notification in advance, but still requiring individuals making public comments to state their name and address. An ordinance will be prepared for the next meeting.

The draft procedure states:

“If public comment is allowed during the meeting, the citizen desiring to comment on matters of a general nature, not specific to an agenda item, shall sign up in advance of the meeting and shall provide his or her name and address for the purpose of putting both in the minutes of the meeting. Any public comment taken on specific agenda items shall require the citizen to state his or her name and address for the minutes. The mayor or presiding official may limit the time of each citizen based upon the number of people wishing to speak and the amount of time available for the public comment portion of the meeting.”

It also states:

“Any governing body member or staff member of the city may request to have an item placed on the agenda. Members of the public may not place an item on the agenda, but may have a governing body member sponsor such an item.”

In other business:

  • Holter said Westar will upgrade a substation and switchgear to alleviate power outage blinkages. An hour-long planned outage will be necessary.
  • Heitschmidt said Marion County Community Economic Development Corporation would be an agenda item at the next council meeting Nov. 20.
  • The four council members and mayor were appointed to the newly-formed Marion Land Bank board of directors, and the city administrator was added as a non-voting member.

Holter said the council members could determine how to set up non-council board appointments in the future to give it stability.

  • Heitschmidt gave a presentation on city messaging, adapted from a recent Kansas League of Municipalities conference.

“Good communication increases trust in government,” he said.

Holter added that the city will be joining forces with a Tabor College public relations class for brand building with the city and its public services.

  • Recreation director Margo Yates said 52 basketball teams from 15 schools will come to Marion for an upcoming basketball tournament.

Last modified Nov. 8, 2017

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