Bainbridge council may tweak guidelines for comment at public hearings

With the last hearing for the city's controversial Shoreline Master Program approaching quickly on the horizon, the Bainbridge Island City Council will talk this week about making slight adjustments to its guidelines for people who want to offer public comment during hearings.

Mayor Anne Blair has put together proposed guidelines for public participation at official hearings.

The amount of time for speakers will be adjusted slightly, and another noteworthy change — if adopted by the council — will prevent speakers from ceding their time to others, so others can then make longer-than-normally-allowed presentations to the council.

Another change: Each person can speak only once.

Blair said the council noted at their last meeting that guidelines for public hearings were ripe for review.

The mayor said city officials want to talk about guidelines now, in advance of the upcoming SMP hearing, so the public will be aware of what's expected before the next official hearing is held.

In the past, Blair said, the council has gone back and forth on whether to let speakers give their allotted time at the microphone to someone else.

"Sometimes we say yes, sometimes we say no," Blair recalled.

Blair said she didn't know if others on the council would support that particular change.

"That's really going to be tonight's conversation," Blair said.

The city will also limit the amount of time that speakers have at the lectern, depending on the number of people who have signed up to speak, with citizens having either 2 or 3 minutes each.

If fewer than 20 people sign up to talk, they will each be given a maximum of 3 minutes to talk. If more than 20 people sign up, they will be given a maximum of 2 minutes each.

Other guidelines include maintaining a respectful atmosphere in council chambers during hearings, without responses or noises from the audience or others in attendance; having all speakers sign in before the public hearing begins; and having council members not immerse themselves into the hearing by answering questions or responding to comments.

The city council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, July 7 at city hall. Council members will discuss the hearing guidelines during the "council discussion" portion of the meeting, scheduled for 9:45 p.m.

The public hearing on the SMP has been scheduled for Monday, July 14 at city hall.


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