CD/HR Council Committee Relaxes Public Input Limitations, Somewhat
(APN) ATLANTA — In a victory for public input, the Community Development/Human Resources Committee of the City Council of Atlanta will no longer limit public input to two minutes for individuals who arrive after the meeting begins.
Citizen advocates at City Council including Ben Howard, Ron Shakir, Brother Anthony Muhammad, and the present writer, have been opposing limitations on public input at CD/HR, since they were first introduced by Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd (District 12), Chairwoman of the Committee, in January 2010.
Sheperd prefaced the first set of public remarks by Brother Muhammad at the first Committee meeting of 2011 with the following statement:
“Let me, I forgot to also advise, as we were having the sign-in sheet, a new rule for this Committee also starting this year in terms of the minutes, in terms that you can speak, we’re gonna move it to one,” Sheperd said, and then burst out laughing, revealing it was a joke.
“No, we will actually, we’re actually gonna change the rule to make it where the five minute rule still stands, but we’re gonna eliminate the two minute rule. So regardless of when you come in, you’ll still have a right to speak for five minutes,” she said.
The rule at CD/HR during 2010 had been that individuals had five minutes to speak, but only two minutes if they arrived after the meeting began.
No other Committee has any time limit. Each Committee Chair has the discretion to set their own rule, subject to being overruled by the Committee.
On a few occasions, the Committee has overridden the Chair to grant additional minutes to citizens seeking more time, including once a developer who wanted more than her two minutes [she had arrived after the meeting started], and a few times to citizens seeking more than five minutes [for those who arrived before it started].
Now, the rule will be only the five minute limit, but citizens will continue to have the ability to ask for more time.
As APN has previously reported, in one instance a woman who had come to speak decided not to speak at all when learning she only had two minutes. Another spoke anyway, but only generally, declining to get into the issue because of the lack of time.
In another incident, an individual had not been aware of the two minute limit, and was cut off in the middle of his presentation.
Then, on November 09, 2010, the present writer wanted to make a presentation regarding the Beltline and affordable housing–a topic where Atlanta Progressive News has done original research–but arrived a few minutes late. Some arguments ensued with Sheperd, until Brother Muhammad had yielded the balance of his time to the present writer.
Then, on November 15, 2010, the present writer criticized the rule, and the five minute rule generally, in comments before the Full Council.
Finally, on January 03, 2011, the present writer criticized the rule again in a rap and R&B presentation, “Why Punish People for Arriving Late?”
While the resolution settles one of the issues at CD/HR Cmte, it is unlikely that advocates will be satisfied with the remaining five minute limit.
While the Committee has discretion to extend time, this is not codified in the minutes, so many citizens are unaware they can request more time.
Meanwhile, some Members of the Committee have expressed to Atlanta Progressive News that having the Committee spend time debating whether or not to extend time, is not the way they wish to spend their time either.
(END / 2011)