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City Council meetings explained: Getting involved

Post Date:06/07/2024 8:58 AM

City Council meetings are where it all happens – from approving the city's annual budget and reviewing proposed projects to passing new city laws. These meetings also provide a regular opportunity for you to tell the City Council what’s on your mind.

In person or online
This week, the city is sharing how to speak at a City Council meeting in person, but please know that if you can’t come to a meeting, you can always provide written comments on agenda topics.

What’s up for discussion?

  • Agenda packets usually come out the Thursday before the Tuesday meeting. This includes posting the packet on the city’s website.
  • You can also sign up to receive an email notification and link when a City Council agenda has been posted. 
  • Each agenda topic will have a staff report. The report provides background information on the topic and other details. 
  • Some staff reports are very detailed and lengthy, with multiple reports and studies attached. The city wants to provide as much information as possible to our City Council members.
  • The city always includes a summary on the first page that should give you a general idea of what the item is about. The city also makes it a priority to define all jargon, explain why the item is coming before the City Council and go over what happened before and what will happen next.

Email comments

The city understands that not everyone can make it to a Tuesday night meeting. That’s why the city encourages people to send their comments via email in advance of the meeting.

  • If you submit your email by 2 p.m. the day of the meeting, you can be assured it will be shared with the City Council in advance of the meeting.
  • All emails related to the agenda become part of the official meeting record.
  • Emailed comments received before the deadline are also posted to the city’s website on the same page as other materials for that meeting.
  • Email (it’s helpful if you can include the agenda item number your comment relates to, but it’s not required)

In person: two options
If you want to provide comments in person there are two main ways to do that.

  1. General comments. This starts at the beginning of the meeting and is an opportunity for members of the public to address the City Council about city-related topics not on the agenda.
  2. Comments on agenda items. If you want to comment on an agenda item, you will be called when that item comes up.

What to expect
Because the City Council may only discuss and act on agenda items, topics brought up during public comment on non-agenda items cannot be discussed.

  • This is due to a state law called The Ralph M. Brown Act, designed to make sure meetings are transparent and the public has adequate notice that a topic will be discussed.
  • If speakers have a specific question or concern, the Mayor often refers them to a staff person in attendance who can address the issue, if possible, or at least make a personal contact for follow up later.

How to sign up
Whether providing a general comment or a comment on a specific agenda item, you will fill out a request to speak card and turn it in before that agenda item starts.

  • The cards are on a table right by the entrance, along with pencils.
  • Give your card to the clerk services staff person, who sits on the left side of the room (if you are looking at the City Council) in front of the dais.
  • The clerk will call your name when it’s your turn to speak. If you think the clerk might need help pronouncing your name, feel free to provide a phonetic spelling.
  • You can stay seated until your name is called, or you can head over to the back foyer on the same side as the podium to wait.
  • Remember, your card must be submitted before the related item on the agenda starts.

Your remarks

  • People often start by introducing themselves and saying where they live, but this is not required.
  • Speakers have three minutes (the Mayor can change the amount of time, which sometimes happens when there are a lot of speakers on a particular topic).
  • You will see a yellow light when you have 30 seconds left and a red light when your time is up.
  • To make sure everyone is treated equally, the City Clerk will cut the sound from your microphone when your time is up.
  • If you want to share written input, photos or other materials, please give them to the clerk services staff rather than handing them directly to the City Council members (there is a short barrier between the podium and the City Council).
  • The microphone is easily adjusted so feel free to bend it as needed so it’s close to your face.

Those are the highlights. City Council agendas have more detailed instructions right on the agenda (same goes for agendas for boards, commissions and committees).

The city understands not everyone loves public speaking, but we do everything we can to create a comfortable environment. If you have kids, please feel free to bring them. The city even has young people who provide comments directly. It’s the perfect way to introduce the next generation of leaders to how local government works.

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