The Greensboro City Council intends to hold the public hearing on the $612 million 2020-2021 budget without allowing the public an opportunity to speak.

The announcement for the meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 2 has been amended and now states that people can submit comments for the public hearing on the 2020-2021 budget until “24 hours following the public hearing on June 2nd.”

However, there is still no provision for any person other than councilmembers and city staff to speak at the meeting.

The North Carolina General Assembly passed a statute in April to establish the law governing virtual meetings and the section on public hearings states: “Public Hearings. – A public body may conduct any public hearing required or authorized by law during a remote meeting, and take action thereon, provided the public body allows for written comments on the subject of the public hearing to be submitted between publication of any required notice and 24 hours after the public hearing.”

Frayda Bluestein, the David Lawrence distinguished professor of public law and government at the University of North Carolina School of Government noted that this statute “adds a requirement that written comments may be submitted at any time between the notice of the meeting and 24 hours after the public hearing.”

But in this case the Greensboro City Council has not added a written comment period but replaced the public hearing itself with the written comment period.

The City Council held public hearings on zoning matters on May 19, and at those public hearings the public was provided with a way to give presentations and voice comments during the meeting. There is no provision at the June 2 public hearing for the public to participate any manner except by email.

In the previous public hearings and public comment periods, none of the comments sent to the City Council have been read aloud during the meeting. The comments were presented in broad categories such as so many emails for and so many emails against.

City Attorney Chuck Watts said, “There is no requirement for there to be contemporaneous participation. We’re receiving written comments, I think that would be passable under the law.”

Watts said that the public hearings on zoning matters were a different kind of public hearing where you have proponents and opponents and each receives a certain amount of time to speak.