In Michigan
6:47 am
Mon August 31, 2009

Council could vote to move public comment time

LANSING, MI – The Lansing City Council is considering a set of changes to its rules tonight.The changes include moving public comment time to the end of the meeting. Supporters say the change will make the meetings shorter and more efficient.

For at least 20 years public comment at Lansing City Council meetings has been a spectacle. A group of people known as "The Regulars" have come to dominate the time with monologues on a wide range of issues including taxes, street repair and public safety. The proposed rule changes would move one of two public comment times to the end of the meeting. Council vice-president A'Lynne Robinson says the change will let the council get to its legislative agenda faster.

"The entire purpose of this is running an efficient, governmental business meeting, and you cannot do that without decorum," Robinson says.

Some of the council regulars often use their time for unintelligible rants, insults and even threats. Councilmember Eric Hewitt says the changes are punitive and aimed at a few individuals.

"There are other avenues in my mind that we need to look at before we get to the point where we're actually punishing not just the folks that are considered to be rowdy and acting up, but also we're punishing the public at large," Hewitt says.

Hewitt says council leaders should open a dialogue with the half dozen or so regulars who cause the majority of the problems. He says recognizing and addressing their concerns could eliminate many of the problems with public comment time. The council votes on the changes tonight.