Lawrence City Commission makes more general public comment changes, including move to end of meeting agenda

photo by: Rochelle Valverde/Journal-World

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on Jan. 31, 2023.

The Lawrence City Commission has yet again approved changes to how it handles the general public comment period at its weekly meetings, including a move to the very end of the agenda.

At Tuesday’s City Commission meeting, commissioners voted 3-1, with Commissioner Lisa Larsen opposed and Vice Mayor Mike Dever absent, to move the period to the end of its order of business and stop broadcasting this portion of the meeting.

Since last month, the general public comment period has already been nearly the last item on the agenda after it was moved from its previous spot near the start of each meeting. The reason for Tuesday’s adjustment was because of one of the changes commissioners approved last month, when they’d already given the OK to stop broadcasting the period live as long as it was still filmed and included with the recording posted online after each meeting. City staff says it wouldn’t be possible to accomplish both with the current agenda order.

On Tuesday, City Clerk Sherri Riedemann told commissioners that city staff recognizes that the City Commission has traditionally made space for members of the public to speak with them directly during the general public comment period, and a change to halt their live broadcast would simultaneously “honor that tradition while also addressing the security of the meeting, the productivity of the meeting and accessibility of the meeting.” Riedemann didn’t expand on how no longer recording general public comment would address meeting security, productivity or accessibility.

Larsen told commissioners that she was in favor of keeping things as they were, with the period taking place after everything but commission items and the commission calendar prior to adjournment and continuing to be broadcast live.

But the other three commissioners present Tuesday reached a consensus about the decision in favor of the additional changes, with Commissioner Amber Sellers saying it didn’t particularly matter whether the period was recorded or broadcast as long as it’s offered as an option to constituents in the first place and is reflected in the City Commission’s meeting minutes.

“The idea of it is to have a relationship and to have that conversation with their elected officials, whether or not it’s broadcasted or not,” Sellers said. “Broadcasting it shouldn’t be an incentive; there really is no incentive to it, if it’s reflected in the minutes, which it is. So then the question for me becomes is it a matter of having more concise, succinct minutes to reflect general public comment or is it more about the idea of having a recording of it, because the official record is the minutes, not the video on YouTube.”


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