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Atlanta City Council caps public comments

Kirkwood and East Lake Metro ATL

Atlanta City Council caps public comments

Atlanta City Hall. Photo by Bbenrath, obtained via Wikimedia Commons

Atlanta City Hall. Photo by Bbenrath, obtained via Wikimedia Commons

Atlanta’s City Council on Monday, July 7, voted to approve limits on public comment at city council meetings.

Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong, who represents Kirkwood, initially voted against the measure aimed at limiting the amount of time people speaking during public comments can “donate” to other speakers. She later supported a revision that set the cap at 16 minutes, instead of 10.

City Councilwoman Felecia Moore pushed for the changes to the public commenting process. Moore said she was trying to be proactive. She said the ability to donate time to other speakers could, in theory, allow public comments for hours on a particular issue. Moore said the process hasn’t been abused, but she wanted to make sure that no one would be able to abuse it during future City Council meetings.

“I’m surprised it seems to be as controversial as it is,” Moore told Decaturish. “People can reasonably share what they have to share with the council in 16 minutes. I was trying to be proactive. I didn’t want to wait until we got to a point where it was abused. I felt it was an area that needed some restrictions.”

Council members approved the 10-minute cap 9-5, which Archibong voting against.

Moore said union leaders representing city employees convinced her to extend the cap to 16 minutes.

Archibong supported the compromise.

“The concern that council member Moore articulated was one where she was anticipating possibilities or anticipating problems,” Archibong said. “On the one hand that can be seen as smart. On the other hand it could be perceived as tinkering with something that isn’t broken.”

Archibong said people who want to speak at city council meetings should be able to work within the new rules.

“Sixteen minutes has been adequate historically speaking,” she said. ” … When you know you have 16 minutes, then as you are formulating your thoughts and your comments, you’ll have the time constraint in mind and to have the priorities to make sure you don’t run out of time.”