BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Several of you have written me lately to ask how to actively engage City Council at its meetings. I know they are scary suits looking down on you from their intimidating dais, and most times it seems there is no order with the mayor in charge. But there is a method to the madness.
Rule 1: Show up on time
I know the city website is complete junk on finding the council schedule. But here’s how to find out when
a meeting is: Click Local Government. Click City Council Videos. Click Agenda.
|The Cheyenne City Council at work.|
Here are a few rules you need to know.
If you have questions or concerns about an annexation or a zoning change, the process is as follows: Often there is a public hearing in which an item can be addressed. After that, it is referred to the Public Service Committee, back to council for a second reading, back to committee for more discussion and finally to council for the third and final reading.
It is best if you present your questions or arguments early in the process. That gives council members some time to do their research on the questions you may have raised. It is rare that a last-minute objection gets much traction.
In addition, most of the work and discussion is done at committee. It is best if you can be present for the committee meeting.
Finally, keep in mind that if an annexation or zoning change meets the conditions or requirements of state statute or city ordinance, there is no legal reason for the Governing Body to vote against it. If the proposal does meet requirements, the probability of it being approved is high.
When at the meeting, listen to the clerk and mayor carefully when they announce agenda items. You don’t get to discuss items that aren’t on topic. When the mayor says public comment on that agenda item, that is your turn to speak. Remember: only that topic.
To save time, there is what’s called the consent agenda. This is where agenda items that are assumed to generate little or no discussion are lumped together and passed on one vote. If the item you want to discuss is on the consent agenda, contact a city council member before the meeting and asked for it to be pulled.
Remember, the item you request to be pulled is placed in its regular order, so make sure you can stay until your item is read to speak. City Council is receptive to pulling items off the consent agenda on behalf of the community. Don’t be afraid to ask. It doesn’t have to be in person; an e-mail or phone call will do.
Once again, make sure you are present to discuss your topic. Meetings can and do get drawn out on topics you may not find interesting.
At the end of the meeting is a section called “Other Business.” This is where you can voice your concern about the community.
Remember, concise arguments are appreciated. If you have a handout, make sure you bring at least 15 copies: one for each council member, one for the mayor, one for the city clerk and additional copies for any media that may be present.
It is best to hand the copies to the city clerk to be handed out to those on the dais. Be prepared to answer any questions and make yourself available to answer any questions at the end of your speech.
As dumb as it sounds, dress to impress.
Don’t be accusatory or use foul language when addressing the governing body.
Do not expect an immediate response as most likely the governing body is not familiar with your issue.
Be polite and address the representatives by their title, even if you are on a first-name basis with some of them.
Remember, your City Council does want to hear from you. Following the proper processes will best allow that to happen.
Richard Johnson is a former City Council member from Ward 3 on Cheyenne’s east side. You can reach him at email@example.com.