08/02/05 — City to allow speakers without prior notification

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City to allow speakers without prior notification

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on August 2, 2005 1:56 PM

People who want to address the Goldsboro City Council will no longer have to sign up in advance to have their say.

The council decided Monday to allow anyone to speak for three minutes without having to notify city officials beforehand. A public comment period will end each council meeting, starting in September.

For years, people have had to sign up a week in advance to be given a chance to speak to council members during a meeting.

But a new state law that set guidelines for public comments during local government meetings gave council members a chance to review the policy and to amend it to make it easier for people to get on the agenda.

The new law became effective last month.

City Attorney Tim Finan told council members the city's existing policy met the standards set by the new state law, which requires municipal governing boards to provide at least one public comment period a month, if the body meets that month.

Goldsboro council members said they wanted to go a step further and offer a public comment period at every meeting. The council meets twice a month, on the first and third Mondays at 7 p.m.

In turn, they decided to limit a person's comment to three minutes and to limit the entire comment period to 30 minutes.

The state law gives the council the right to adopt "reasonable rules" governing the conduct of the public comment period. They include limiting the length of time a speaker has and providing for the designation of a spokesman for a group supporting a particular position if a large number of people wish to speak on the same issue.

Finan told council members they could turn down a speaker who tried to address the council at every meeting.

"There's a reasonable limit," he said.

People who want to speak at the next council meeting, which is Aug.15, must still sign up a week in advance. Mayor Al King said the city's new rules will go into effect with the council's first meeting in September.