Council members unanimously agree that guidelines should be created limiting the amount of time that members of the public can speak during City Council meetings

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The Rock Springs City Council December 19th.

Wyo4News staff, [email protected]

December 20, 2023 — After much discussion at the Dec. 19th Rock Springs City Council meeting, attending Council members unanimously agreed that a guideline should be created regarding the amount of time that members of the public can speak and address the Council during the City Council meetings.

There were several suggestions from Council members regarding how much time constituents will have to speak to their City Council members during the meetings. Council member Jeannie Dermas suggested that each person’s comments be limited to 15 minutes.

Council member Rob Zotti cautioned the Council about limiting people’s rights to speak to the Council. “I feel that I’m here to hear and listen to our constituents. I do understand that sometimes, at our meetings, discussions can get long and drawn out, and a lot of times, it is repetitive, and we don’t get anywhere. But I still believe and feel that it is the right of our constituents to come and address the governing body.” Zotti said, “I think it is important for everybody who is watching to see their government in action and that we’re actually there to listen and understand their concerns. If we limit that, it just causes more grief and distrust in government.”

Zotti then brought up the time when the topic was about chickens, and how people were bringing up the same talking points repeatedly, and suggested that if they are in a meeting and people are repeating the same points over and over, they could just end that conversation at that time and let someone else talk. “But I just feel that it’s vital to allow public comments and not limit them to the best of our abilities,” said Zotti.

Mayor Mickelson then spoke about how uncomfortable it would be for him, as the person who runs the meetings, to tell someone that they have talked enough just because their time is up. Mickelson also spoke about how he would instead feel more comfortable making an exception on a time limit if there is an important conversation that really needs to be discussed, or if the council has more questions, etc. “I don’t want to be disrespectful to someone who feels the need to talk, but I also don’t want to be here until midnight either. So, my hope is that we can have some sort of structure around public comments.”

It was suggested that if someone wanted to have a longer conversation, then perhaps they could make an appointment with the council outside of the City Council Meeting time so that the person could say everything that they want to say. “There’s a lot of different ways that we can honor the need to have those longer conversations outside of the City Council meeting setting,” said Mickelson.

The Mayor also wanted to remind people that sometimes they might not have the answers to people’s questions right away, and they may need to get back to the person after they find the answers or have the right person who can answer those questions get back to the person.

All the attending Council members unanimously agreed that there needs to be some structure for the public comment period at the City Council meetings. They decided that a public comment guideline should be created regarding the length of time individuals have to address the council. When created, they suggested that the guidelines could be read before the public comment period at each council meeting. As of last night’s meeting, no firm public comment time limit has been set.