Compromise on City Council Public Input is a Good Deal [OPINION]
The compromise forged over the gurgling controversy of open public input at Sioux Falls City Council meetings is a good one.
It will limit comments to three minutes per person and 30 minutes overall at the beginning of each meeting. The ordinance passed First Reading unanimously last week and will have a Second Reading vote on July 3.
The best part of the deal, which doesn’t get as much attention, is allowing comment at first reading of ordinances. That will nearly eliminate the need for open comment at the regular council meetings.
If I had my druthers I’d probably do just that and see how it goes. But I realize that’s not punitive enough for some folks. There is an air in this proposal that is distasteful to me. It’s not that three minutes or five minutes really matter for the most part. Or whether 30 minutes is going to be limiting.
I don’t really think that’s the main issue.
It’s the unspoken but clear message that it’s being done because public comment is annoying or uncomfortable. That really does bother me.
The suggestion that it’s a business meeting is off point in my mind. It’s still a public forum for debate of issues before our city. So much of it seems mundane but it’s all important for the efficient operations of the government.
It is not exclusively the providence of developers and other business people to execute their deals. Yes, zoning and use permits are important. In fact, I would argue that we should be having broader discussions about how we grow, how we develop, and how does that fit the long-term needs and vision of the city.
But these aren’t the discussions we have. It’s much more how can we best facilitate what I consider a short-sighted philosophy, which is that all growth is good growth, all building is good building, all expansion is good expansion.
That’s a bigger issue than public input.
For now, this is a reasonable compromise for what is in the end a pretty simple problem to fix. Yes, it’s a big issue in terms of open government, and the timing could have been better, the process is too rushed.
But let’s pass it and move on.
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