Public Comment Muted

At the first regular meeting of the City Council in the new council chambers the public’s right to full participation will be curtailed. This item was not part of the original package of so-called “streamlining” recommendations to reduce the duration of council meetings, first suggested by Councilman Daryl Supernaw. That package is still being drafted as a proposed ordinance by the city attorney.

Specifically, the right of residents to attend council and line up to speak during discussion of council agenda items has been eliminated. The public will only be allowed to speak if they have submitted a speaking card and done so in advance. Members of the public often watch the proceedings seated in the chamber and find themselves moved, in the moment, by what they see and hear, to queue up and have their say.

The loss of this longstanding civic right will represent the further eroding of the democratic process in Long Beach. While many of the recent “streamlining” proposals are unobjectionable (such as the limitation on extended, uninterrupted speeches by council members), this item will add to a short list of highly inappropriate changes, to which the Long Beach Reform Coalition objects, such as shortening the public’s speaking time to 90 seconds each for more than ten speakers in line, and a proposal during the May discussion, which could lead to public comment being confined to meetings of council committees rather than the full council.

Ian S. Patton, LBRC


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