It seems the concern about residents needing to fill out comment cards before speaking in a Board of Aldermen meeting was unfounded.
It was reported that City Administrator Bola Akande had made the suggestion.
In the Aug. 20 Board of Alderman meeting, mayor Pat Kelly said they won’t be used in Board of Aldermen meetings.
“I don’t like them,” he said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate.”
He said the Public Safety Committee had started using comment cards, and City Administrator Bola Akande took the initiative to propose using them for Board of Aldermen meetings.
Alderwoman Cindy Manestar, by email on Wednesday, said the suggestion was included in the weekly (every Friday) city administrator’s report for five consecutive weeks, 7/20, 7/27, 8/3, 8/10 and 8/17.
"If this was something that was never, ever being considered, then why was it included in five different reports?" she said.
Manestar read the text of the comment card idea in the Aug. 20 meeting, and also sent it to Patch:
"Citizen Request /Comment Cards: At the request of Alderman Wynn, staff has developed a "Citizen Request/Comment Card which was used at the Public Safety Committee meeting on Thursday, July 19 and will be used going forward. Given the comments we heard during the "Public Comments" about speakers not wanting to give their address, this card will allow us to have their address and in writing their comments before the meeting starts. Octavia Pittman would collect the forms prior to the start of the meeting and we would hand them over to Mayor Kelly. Other committees could also adopt usage of this form. The attachment shows what the generic speaker card would look like for the Board of Aldermen meeting. Please let me now if you have any questions."
"I interpreted this to mean that these comment cards were intended to take the place of the public, speaking at the podium," Manestar said in her email. "I assumed this would be discussed and the "generic speaker card" would then be modified for the BOA meetings."
Kelly said he never paid attention to the mentions of comment cards in the weekly reports.
“When it was suggested to me, whether we even wanted to consider comment cards I said no, and that was the end of it,” Kelly said.
Alderwoman Maureen Saunders said she understood what Kelly was saying, but the problem was that it was in the weekly reports, and she was hearing from residents that they don’t like it.
“It’s almost like you made the decision and it’s ended, but it kept coming through the reports,” she said. “You could see where it could produce a little bit of anxiety.”
Alderman Lee Wynn, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, took full responsibility.
"I’m the one who started the comment cards," he said. "It’s all me. It’s mine."
He said he started using them in his committee meetings because he likes time to consider a question rather than needing to answer it on the spot. He said he can give a fuller answer that way, and that it’s not to prevent anybody from speaking.
“It’s only my committee,” Wynn said. “As far as I’m concerned, we don’t have to do it (in Board of Aldermen meetings.) Please don’t put the blame on anybody else but me.”
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