Redwood City councilmembers and individuals with something to say to them may soon have new guidelines on how to do so during city meetings.
The City Council tonight will consider a proposed set of policy guidelines governing communication and public participation. The 11-page document also addresses how to use electronic media, city letterhead and titles on candidate endorsements and ballot measures but the lion’s share is focused on meeting behavior.
"There were pieces of this all in different places. The thought was to put it together,” said Councilwoman Rosanne Foust who with Councilman John Seybert sat on ad hoc committee to develop the draft at the request of Mayor Alicia Aguirre
Foust said the guide isn’t a response to any issues with how business is conducted but a tool providing consistency across councils, mayoral styles and topics. That said, Foust said the mayor will still have discretion on matters like ceding time even though the proposal said there will be no yielding of time to other speakers — with the rule underlined for emphasis.
Other features include prohibiting potentially disruptive conduct, like clapping and hissing, ending meetings no later than 11 p.m. without a 5/7th vote, banning sitting on the floor or standing anywhere other than the back of the room. Once the public comment period begins, no additional speaker cards will be collected and no extra speakers will be allowed at the podium.
"This allows all groups to have the same rights and privileges and information,” Foust said. "If we have the rules too loose it can be open to interpretation.”
Regardless of the number of speakers, the public comment period will be only 15 minutes and action items will receive 30 minutes. Appeals and public hearings will receive 60 minutes per item and if there are more than 20 speakers they may receive less than three minutes each.
The hope is that the uniform policy also shows the public that individual opinions and concerns are not being dismissed, Foust said.
"There is a very large difference between being heard and getting what you want although people mix those up. When people feel they haven’t gotten what they want they tend to say you’re not listening. With these rules, nobody can come back and say it wasn’t fair,” Foust said.
The policy also states a city official can lawfully endorse a candidate or ballot measure using their job or political title but cannot mislead the public into thinking he or she is acting on behalf of the city and can’t use city resources like official letterhead.
The Redwood City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19 at City Hall, 1017 Middlefield Road, Redwood City.
Michelle Durand can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.