Regarding City Council's recent vote to limit the number of speakers to 12 during the "open mic" comment period, (Gazette Packet, “Talking about Talking,” Jan. 12) with Mayor Silberberg voting "no," this major policy change deserves a public hearing and extending this matter to a broader group.
This vote happened during the oral report meeting of council's legislative meeting on Jan. 10 and clearly is an issue that should have been docketed for a public meeting. Councilman Willie Bailey stated that "we are engaging the public on everything and we don't have to engage here." Guess Councilman Bailey didn't get the memo re: Process in Alexandria. Since Alexandria adopted its civic/citizen engagement format several years ago, if council now wants to "throw the baby out with the bathwater," then we should all be part of this decision.
This matter works both ways and the mayor and council speak too much and too often too long when not needed. When there are items for discussion that require a vote, the mayor usually asks if there are other comments before the vote is taken and often many members of council and the mayor will make comments they have already addressed and appear to be talking for the sake of talking. I believe it is time to limit the mayor and council to a 3-5 minute rule and the clerk can alert them when they have reached their 5 minute limit.
It is also time for city staff to limit their presentations to 10 minutes. The mayor/council already have a copy of these reports and can ask the appropriate questions as needed. Also, since the attorneys for the applicants they are representing have no time limit, it is time to limit their presentations to 8-10 minutes max.
Finally, I am suggesting that if weather conditions are such that council needs to delay the start of the public hearing for more than two hours, these meetings should be rescheduled.
Therefore, I am making a motion that a time limit is placed on city staff presentations; attorney presentations and all comments made by the mayor and members of council as cited above. I suspect this motion will be seconded by a majority of citizens who attend council meetings and want to be heard, knowing that our elected officials have already made their decisions regarding a particular docket item. This motion should be placed on the docket for a public hearing at the February council public hearing.
Silence is golden!