On Tuesday night, City Councilors discussed the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would move public input from the beginning of the meeting to the end. Voting in favor of this ordinance was Councilors Selberg (sponsor), Kiley, Neitzert, and Soehl. While opponents included Councilors Stehly, Starr, and Brekke. Councilor Erickson was absent during this first reading and thus did not vote.
Proponents assert this ordinance does not eliminate public input nor does it shorten public input, but rather it allows the Council to get to their actionable agenda quicker which gives the media the ability to turnaround stories and broadcast it to the larger public in a timelier manner. Additionally, individuals who are scheduled to present on a certain reading or there to learn more about a proposed ordinance change don’t have to sit through public input that has gotten disorderly in the past. Keep in mind, this proposed ordinance would not take away public input time allotted for second readings.
Opponents of this proposed change—which includes over 2 hours of public input from 33 Sioux Falls residents— fear the taxpayer’s ability to address the Council is being taken away and their voice is being squandered. They further state that public input at the beginning of the meeting promotes accountability and transparency. In the end, they believe the public should be given the first chance to address their representatives.
After more than 2 hours of discussion, Councilors voted to set a hearing for June 19. However, less than two days after this decision was made, the Mayor’s office announced that a compromised may have been reached. According to reports, the Mayor’s office along with the City Councilors are working towards a new proposal that would keep public input at the front of the agenda but limit its entirety to 30 minutes (as it stands, public input does not currently have a time limit). Additionally, each speaker’s time limit would decrease from five minutes to three minutes. It appears this is a step in the right direction, but we’ll have to wait until Tuesday to find out if there is enough support from the Councilors.