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Snohomish council changes comment protocols, start time

SNOHOMISH — City Council meetings may soon start an hour earlier at 6 p.m. and the public’s opportunity to give comments will be scaled back under tweaks approved last week.
The council also implemented having a council president who will act as mayor pro tem to run meetings.
The first meeting at the earlier time is undecided, newly appointed Council President Jason Sanders said last week. The Jan. 16 meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Council members said letting the public speak so often has created protracted meetings. The council had solicited public comment for every item on its meeting agenda.
The new protocol will limit comments to action items the council plans to vote on. Meetings will retain the open comment period at the start of the meeting.
Councilwoman Lynn Schilaty suggested the changes during a routine conversation on council protocols.
People were using the comment periods to ask questions to staff, while a few took the opportunity to take potshots.
A council meeting is “not the best forum to get those questions answered,” Schilaty said, saying that a town hall forum is a more appropriate venue.
Her peers agreed, saying the meetings are to conduct the council’s business.
Giving time for public comment on individual items is “a courtesy we extend to the public, not a right,” Councilman Steve Dana said.
Councilwoman Linda Redmon said that she wants to ensure town hall meetings are followed through on.
Limiting public comment was approved in a 4-3 vote with Councilwomen Schilaty, Guzak, Redmon and Councilman Tom Merrill in the majority.
The 6 p.m. meeting start time change was approved in a 6-1 vote.
Almost 10 years ago, the meetings lasted for about an hour. Lately, meetings regularly exceed two hours.
Adding a council president is in line with cities such as Everett and Mukilteo. Mayor John Kartak had inherited this responsibility in the city’s government structure transition. Before November’s change, running council meetings was handled by a council member nominated and designated as the city’s weak mayor.
Sanders was unanimously appointed council president at last week’s meeting.
The City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at the school district headquarters, 1601 Ave. D.

Reporter Angela Cooper-McCorkle contributed reporting

 

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