New Council chambers, new rules regarding public comment

In hopes of shortening City Council meetings that can stretch late into the night, officials are instituting new rules beginning Tuesday, according to a memo released late last week.

In order to comment on an item, members of the public will now have to submit a speaker card to the city clerk before the item in question is presented, according to the memo. Also, speakers will be limited to 90 seconds, instead of three minutes, if there are 10 or more people lined up to speak on an item.

Those two changes are attracting the ire of some in the community who contend the public should be able to comment during the proceedings while an item is being presented.

“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,” according to a statement Monday by the Long Beach Reform Coalition.

“The loss of this long-standing civic right will represent the further eroding of the democratic process in Long Beach.”

Some councilmembers also bristled a few months ago at one suggestion based on a survey that elected officials be limited in how long they can talk. The new rules give councilmembers five minutes to speak, but they can re-queue to speak as many times as they like.

Other rules that will be implemented:

  • Consent calendar—a list of often routine items that are approved with one vote—will be heard prior to 6:30 p.m.
  • Sub-committee discussions will end promptly at the time listed to allow for City Council meetings or other sessions to begin earlier.
  • The council will adhere to the order of the agenda, though the mayor can still move items when necessary.

Another change that stemmed from some controversy: Any supplemental agenda items that are added after the initial agenda is posted must have urgency. In July, significant changes to the city’s tenant relocation were added to the agenda the Friday before the Tuesday council meeting, catching critics of the policy off guard. Going forward, councilmembers will have to show that additions are truly urgent, with an explanation as to why.

Councilman Daryl Supernaw originally floated the idea of shortening meetings last year when the City Council had seven meetings last over seven hours. Supernaw introduced his idea in October, about a month after the longest council meeting of 2018, which lasted nearly nine hours.

The changes announced last week will be put into place until the council formally approves a new ordinance to govern their meetings, which the city attorney is currently drafting.

The City Council meets at 5 p.m. every Tuesday, except the last Tuesday of the month.

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