Cities diverge on resident comments

Cities diverge on resident comments

December 9th, 2010 by Chris Carroll in News

WHAT'S NEXT

Councilmen will vote on Resolution 2181 today at East Ridge City Hall. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

Two days after Red Bank opened a door to government, another municipality is expected to slam it shut.

On deck for today's East Ridge City Council meeting is a resolution seeking to "establish proper decorum and civility" and limit communication between officials and residents during public comment periods.

"For all inquiries concerning operational statements, finances, budgets or otherwise shall be in writing and presented to the City Council," the resolution continues.

If approved, the resolution will allow the city manager to provide a written response "not later than the next regularly scheduled City Council meeting."

The council meets every two weeks.

Resolution No. 2181 surfaces four months after some residents berated a council that overlooked a six-figure budget deficit. It also follows a recent meeting in which councilmen failed to identify a $265,000 expenditure known as "Special Project 3" when a resident asked what it was.

"It's to prevent what happened this year," said Mayor Mike Steele, who suggested the resolution. "If citizens are looking for back-and-forth, they're walking up for the wrong reasons.

"You have a few citizens who enjoy making the city manager and council look silly," he continued. "Let's be honest; they love it. We want to provide correct information."

East Ridge councilmen will vote two days after Red Bank Mayor Monty Millard went in the other direction. On Tuesday, he changed the city's agenda to allow residents to speak before commissioners vote on ordinances and resolutions.

Previously, residents only were allowed to speak minutes before the meeting adjourned.

"People can still speak at the end of the meeting," Millard said Tuesday. "But it's extremely important to allow our citizens to express their opinions before we actually consider items to vote on."

Immediately after the new change was announced, longtime Red Bank resident David Hafley approached Millard and suggested adding "a little more detail" to the agenda section dealing with new business.

"We want to know what you're voting on," Hafley said. "This is a good move."

Chattanooga, Collegedale, Hamilton County, Red Bank, Signal Mountain and Soddy-Daisy do not require residents to submit questions in writing during public comment periods, a mandatory segment of each city's meetings.

Contact Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6610.