Members of the public will now have the chance to speak about items not on the Laramie City Council’s agenda before a regular meeting after the council voted to amend its codes of conduct during its Tuesday meeting.
The measure would allow for up to 30 minutes of public comment on non-agenda items with a three-minute time limit per comment. The current public comment period at the end of the regular meetings would stay in place for any potential overflow from the 30 minutes prior to the meeting.
Not every council member was thrilled about the idea, however. Councilwoman Jayne Pearce said while she wants to hear from the public, too much comment could make it hard to conduct actual business during the meetings.
Pearce noted if there had been the full 30 minutes of comment during Tuesday’s meeting, the council would’ve still been on agenda item number two out of 16 at 8:45 p.m., and the codes of conduct state no new agenda items can be introduced after 9:30 p.m. without the council voting for a meeting extension.
“I just want to say that this potentially adds a significant amount of time to our meetings,” she said. “I would also like to say that this evening, of the 13 people that spoke on agenda items, half exceeded the three-minute mark. … I think three minutes is unreasonable. I think adding public comment at the beginning is unreasonable considering the pace that we need to move things through.”
Councilman Paul Weaver noted when he was previously on council around 2013 or 2015, the council then also considered public comment adjustments, adding opportunities to work sessions and implementing the fifth Tuesday ward meetings. That doesn’t mean people take advantage of those opportunities; Weaver noted low public attendance to both works sessions and most ward meetings.
“There is an element of folks that really only think their public comment is worthwhile if they’re going to be on the public access channel, which I think is amusing because I don’t know how many people watch that,” Weaver said.
When he served as an Albany County Commissioner, Vice Mayor Pat Gabriel said they would have public comment at the beginning of the meeting and “never had any problem with it.”
Considering most public comment comes from potentially disgruntled residents, Councilwoman Jessica Stalder noted people won’t be any less dissatisfied by having to wait until the end of the meeting.
One member of the public in favor of the measure, Chris Deile, commented that those who are poor or without a car would have to walk home late at night if they had to wait until the end of the meeting.
The council voted 8-1 to approve the changes to the code of conduct, with Pearce voting against.