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Speaking at a City Council Session
Important Information and Tips:
- You can speak at one of two times:
1) At Hear Visitors at the beginning of the meeting. Use this time only if the subject of
your remarks is not on the agenda. If it is, you will be moved to that later time.
2) When your agenda item comes up before Council later in the evening.
- You can speak on multiple agenda items, but must submit separate forms for each.
- You have three minutes! Then they cut off your microphone ... which is embarrassing and
lessens your impact. That's not very long! It helps to write out your remarks and rehearse
them for timing. Better to be brief than long-winded.
- You can get up to 10 minutes by having 5 or more people sign up to speak and cede their
time to a single speaker.
- Slide and video presentations are very effective, but you don't get extra time.
Submit them according to the instructions and check with the A/V staff before the
meeting to make sure they have your file and know who will be speaking.
- Keep your remarks concise and to the point.
- Respect Council's Time. If your points have already been made, either just take a pass or
quickly state that you agree and support what previous speakers have said.
- If you complain about a specific Staff member or department, Council may allow the
appropriate person to respond to you directly. Make sure you have your facts straight!
Does it Really Matter? YES
Speaking before Council can have real effects on outcomes.
- You may have information that Council Members don't have. City Staff is not
all-knowing and they do have their own agendas. No one knows your
neighborhood better than you and your neighbors.
- The public can actually provide guidance to both Staff and Council. Early
engagement, in particular, by the public can often alter the course of a project.
- Council members are reluctant (sometimes) to vote against a large group of
irate residents. If no one shows up to speak on an issue, they assume no
one really objects.
- Public turnout provides Council members with justification and "cover" for
their votes. They are politicians that want your vote in the next election and
they want to be able to say that they followed the will of their constituents.
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