EDITORIAL: Public comment practice lacks fairness

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By law, publicly elected bodies do not have to hear comment from those who literally put them in their places, and for a while the Taylorsville City Commission didn’t.
However, within the past couple months, the commission has started taking public comment, but as we pointed out a few weeks ago, there is a catch.
According to the city’s policy, which is spelled out on agendas for regularly scheduled meetings, citizens wishing to address the commission must make their requests known by noon on the Friday before the Tuesday meeting.
It’s no secret – we’re not fans of that policy. But we are fans of letting constituents voice their concerns to their elected leaders.
Last Tuesday, at least five citizens were allowed to speak to the commission without signing up by the required deadline and seemingly after the commission was finished taking comments from visitors.
At its basic level, we’re happy to see citizens allowed to speak – within a three-minute window, of course.
However, we’re also fans of fairness and consistency, and this instance showed neither.
We’ve spoken to at least two other citizens who requested to be put on Tuesday’s citizen speaker list, but were told they didn’t meet the deadline.
Sure, these citizens could have come to the meeting and requested to be put on the agenda or asked for a few minutes of time, but after being shot down to begin with, you can’t blame them for not trying again.
Making some citizens adhere to this policy, while letting others speak at will is neither fair nor consistent.
We’ve already voiced our displeasure in the city’s “by noon Friday” policy. It hinders some citizens from speaking out, and if you happen to call at 2 or 4 p.m. on Friday – well, then it’s just too late, right?
We’re not comparing apples to apples here, but the city might be at an advantage to check into the county’s procedure for allowing public comment.
Anyone who wishes to address the fiscal court only has to show up, state his or her name and finish a thought in three minutes.
Some city commissioners have expressed that they would like to know who is going to speak at each meeting so that the commission itself can be prepared to respond.
Those who speak at fiscal court don’t always get an answer right away – and that’s fine. Most of the time it seems citizens are content to be allowed to speak up, even if they don’t get an immediate answer – at least the concern was heard.
While we’d like to see the city implement a consistent “show up, sign up and get your three minutes” policy, we’d rather the commission adhere to the same policy – even if it means signing up by noon two business days in advance – than mix and match in no predictable manner.
Life itself isn’t fair, but there’s no good reason that the city’s public comment policy can’t be.
Each citizen has an equal vote come election time, and each citizen should be given a fair shot at speaking to those they elect.