Tampa City Council talks about Public Comment

04/05/07 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

For Tampa citizens who want to address the City Council on an issue that is not listed for a public hearing that day – they must sometimes wait for hours on end.  And their comments are not broadcast on the City’s cable access channel.


City Councilman John Dingfelder says he’s heard some complaints over the years about that.  So he recently asked the City Council’s Attorney, To present some possible options to change the current system. 


The City Council created the current rules some 13 years ago.  Councilwoman Linda Saul Sena, who was serving on the Council at the time, said they had a good reason for doing so (roll tape#1 o.q.”of public comment”)


City Council Attorney Marty Shelby presented a couple of different options, including keeping the public comment at the end of the meeting, but go ahead and broadcast it.  

However, he said that the local broadcasting crew would run that portion of the meeting on a 7 second delay to prevent profanity from being spewn, and they did not want to appear as censors.


Commissioner Dingfelder said he didn’t think that should be a factor  (roll tape#2 o.q.”and that’s why I brought it up”)


But Dingfelder stood by himself in thinking that the Council should change the current format.


Council Chair Gwen Miller (roll tape#3 o.q.”why we should change it”)


One citizen said the Council does NOT seem like they care about the public
(roll tape#4 o.q.”first come, first serve”)


The Council then discussed a related issue.  Regarding how members of the public who  come to speak on specific issues on the agenda must sometime wait hours on end.


City Council Attorney Martin Shelby said he was still working on possible remedies. 

But as the discussion continued, Councilman Charlie Miranda, newly elected but previously a long serving member on the Council, said the Board was showing why members of the public frequently must wait hours to speak (roll tape#4 o.q.”   and wasted time”)


Discussion later moved to possibly looking at changing when Tampa Citizens vote.  Currently, the City Council and Mayoral races take Place in March….Last month, only 16% of the public voted in the general election, and only 16% in the must publicized run-off election featuring Joe Redner.  Since then, some City leaders have questioned what can be done to generate higher interest.

City Council Chair Gwen Miller, who ran 2 campaigns last month, suggested it was time to move the election from March to November, but keep it in an ‘off-year’, or non Presidential or Congressional election (roll tape#5 o.q.” Committee for that”)


To make such a change would require changing the City’s Charter.  City Councilman John Dingfelder said the Council discussed this years ago, but didn’t do anything about it (roll tape#6 o.q.”for charter changes”)


City Attorney David Smith says he will research the issue of changing the Charter before bringing it back to the Council.

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