The Greensboro City Council on Oct. 15 officially announced that all of its meetings for the remainder of the year will be virtual.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan made the announcement at the Tuesday, Oct. 6 City Council meeting, but it was more of an aside than an official announcement.
The key to the official announcement from Greensboro City Clerk Angela Lord is the following paragraph:
“The first regular meeting of the month is for Council consideration of public forum comments, presentational, consent, public hearing, and business items as needed. Public comments may be submitted online via https://form.jotform.com/202643500426041 by 5 p.m. the day prior to the meeting. Any requests received past 5 p.m. will be processed for the next appropriate Council meeting.”
Note there is no mention of people being allowed to virtually comment during the “public forum comments” period of the meeting, which is also known as “speakers from the floor on non-agenda items.”
Before the present City Council took office in 2017, both regular monthly meetings of the City Council had 30-minute public comment periods. The present City Council decided to restrict that to one public comment period a month, the minimum required by state law.
But since the City Council started meeting virtually in April, the public has only been allowed to comment at one public comment period and that was at the meeting on Oct. 6.
According to this official notification of how City Council meetings will be held for the remainder of 2020, it appears that one public comment period will be the only one held with public comments from April through Dec. 31, 2020.
Particularly, when you compare that language to how the public can comment at the second meeting of the month in this paragraph:
“The second regular meeting of the month is for Council consideration of consent, public hearing, and business items. Public comments and/or requests for participation in specific agenda items or public hearing matters may be submitted to https://form.jotform.com/202643500426041mailto:email@example.com by 5 p.m. the day prior to the Council meeting. Any requests received past 5 p.m. will be processed for the next appropriate Council meeting.”
Note for the second meeting of the month, one without a public comment period, has this language, “Public comments and/or requests for participation in specific agenda items or public hearing matters may be submitted to…”
It’s a pretty nifty Catch-22. The public is invited to comment when it can’t, but not invited to comment when it can.