A recent vote to quash written comments from the public to Littleton City Council spurred some local activists into action and will likely be reversed.
On Oct. 16, Councilor Bruce Beckman made a successful motion to change city council’s adopted legislative rules to read, “Written comment will not be permitted for public hearings on legislation or quasi-judicial matters so as to preserve the council/boards’ ability to question the evidence.”
That went over like a ton of bricks with the Sunshine Boys, a group that considers itself the city’s government watchdog.
“You only represent us if we come down to address you in person?” asked Carol Brzeczek.
Norm Brown said the rule could put disabled people at a disadvantage, if it was difficult for them to get there.
City Attorney Kirsten Crawford noted the city is required by law to accommodate anyone who wants to attend a council meeting. Additionally, she pointed out that it’s only during quasi-judicial matters that council isn’t allowed to consider anything other than evidence and testimony presented during the public hearings. Lobbying is permissible when debating proposed legislation.
“I thought it sounded good at first, but my brain moves slowly,” said Councilor Peggy Cole before making a motion to get written comments back in.
Council debated deadlines and acceptable formats – texts, Skype, telephone, “I guess even telegram,” said Cole. City Manager Michael Penny suggested staff could come up with suggested wording for them to consider during the next regular meeting.
Councilor Bruce Stahlman noted they don’t have time beforehand to consider comments made at the dais during meetings, and wondered why written comments should be treated differently.
“I’d hate to cut anybody out,” he said.
Councilor Phil Cernanec agreed, but wants the new wording to ensure all councilors always get the same information.
“My concern is that we all get it evenly,” he said.
Councilor Jerry Valdes wondered how practical it would be to take texts during meetings, and said some deadline would be needed.
“I do think this is not about what’s convenient for city council, it’s what’s convenient for citizens.”