FEW MIGHT BE CHOSEN: Though many might wish to speak at a Little Rock City Board meeting, a new ordinance will limit comments to 30 minutes, up to 3 minutes per speaker.
The eternal debate on when and who may speak on what topics at Little Rock City Board
meetings has sparked a proposed ordinance to tinker with the rules. On the agenda Tuesday night is this proposal:
Three (3) minutes are allowed to present a specific item which has not previously been brought to the attention of the Board by the speaker and is not already on the Agenda.
This time is allotted for any person to express a written or oral viewpoint, grievance, or other message to the Board of Directors. Board members may ask questions of the speaker, or make a relevant comment, after the presentation has been completed. A maximum of thirty (30) minutes is allotted for citizen communications each meeting.
No advance permission is required, but persons wishing to address the City Board are required to fill out a yellow card listing the specific subject to be addressed and hand it to the City Clerk upon arrival.
Citizen Communication will be held immediately following the Consent Agenda items at the first regular meeting of the month, and at the end of the printed Agenda at the second regular meeting of the month,
Call it the Luke Skrable rule, for a frequent speaker cut off by Mayor Stodola for repetitive remarks. You get one bite at the apple. If your pothole isn't fixed, tough. You get to tell the board about it in front of TV cameras for all to see only once. And you better sign up early. 10 speakers can eat up that 30 minutes pretty quickly.
The Board squabbled on this subject recently when many in a big crowd that had turned out to comment on Director Kenneth Richardson's DWI arrest didn't get to speak. City Director Erma Hendrix also wanted allotted time to be expanded to five minutes rather than three.
Hendrix also objected to rules that had the public comment session alternate between the beginning and end of the meeting. Many are discouraged from staying until the end of often lengthy board meetings, she said. No relief is granted in this proposal, though the comments are moved from the beginning of the meeting to a slot after the consent agenda and before the contested agenda one week a month.
Requiring a speaker to list a topic gives the mayor the power to cut off speaking before it begins by seeing it repetitive or otherwise out of order.
Fact is, public remarks are mostly irrelevant. The Little Rock City Board votes on most topics are well settled in advance of the meetings, which serve primarily for political posturing. The effective board operators do their communicating one-on-one in advance of meetings.