On his first day in office, newly elected Mayor Jerry Koch and the council adopted a resolution modifying meeting rules to include televising public comments. That segment had been off-air since 2007, after comments that were deemed potentially slanderous, but during the recent election season many advocated bringing them back. Even before that, some people objected to the policy, saying it gave the impression the city had something to hide.
“We don’t have enough valid reasons to not televise it,” Koch said. “I’ve always thought it should be. It creates transparency.”
However, the shift comes with caveats: Speaking time is cut from five minutes to three, and the open-mic period, as it’s called, has moved to the end of the meeting instead of the beginning.
Historically, this portion of the meetings often has ranged from politely shared “concerns” to diatribes about the perceived failings of a city.
In the past, the community access TV cameras that air the meeting were turned off during that segment.
Koch researched the productivity of open-mic segments from the past few years. He found that only a handful of ideas from them went to staff for review.
“[The segment has] been monopolized by a few that have nothing but an ax to grind,” he said.
In the summary of his research, one resident visited the council at least 35 times in two years.
“This must be productive,” Koch warned. “If this doesn’t work, we will stop it again.”