A total of 18 speakers signed up for the public comment period at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
This is an enormous increase from the City Council meetings in April, May, June, July, August and September, when not a single person signed up to speak during the public comment periods, aka, speakers from the floor.
Although the public comment period was allegedly held at all of those meetings, there were no comments from the public. In October, people discovered they could speak and four speakers did.
However, there was a huge difference between the previous public comment periods held since the City Council started meeting virtually in April and the public comment period on Dec. 1.
The agendas for the City Council meetings in April through August did not include any indication that a regular old person with something to say could speak during the public comment period.
The agendas instead gave instructions on how someone could send an email to the City Council. For example this is the notice on how to make a public comment during the public comment period from the August agenda: “Public comments must be received by 10:00 a.m. on August 3, 2020. Comments are to be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org and should include the speaker’s first and last name, phone number, and email address (for staff follow-up as needed). Comments will be summarized during the meeting and will posted at www.greensboro-nc.gov the day following the meeting.”
If “public comments” had to be received by 10 a.m. on the day of the 5:30 p.m. meeting, it is hard to decipher from that passage that a person could also, if they contacted the city clerk’s office, actually speak at the meeting, but that is how people were supposed to read it.
The City Council is required by state law to provide one public comment period of at least 30 minutes each month. Evidently, by having a public comment period on the agenda for the virtual meetings, the letter of the law was met, even though the agenda itself offered no instructions or advice on how a person could comment at the virtual meeting.
By contrast the City Council, after it started holding virtual meetings, immediately figured out a way for people to speak on public hearing items and resolutions and those instructions were included on the agenda.