Farragut officials have made some changes to Town meeting public comment protocol.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen discussed the changes during a work session Thursday, Aug. 27, then voted to approve them later in the evening during the regular BOMA meeting.
Changes include: restricting comments to Farragut residents, instead of “anyone” as previously allowed; the timing of the Public Comment period will be at the discretion of the mayor or the Farragut Municipal Planning Commission chair; each speaker will be allowed five minutes, which is not transferrable to other speakers; and speakers also will be encouraged to avoid redundancy in their comments and provide their own original viewpoints.
“We have had a whole lot of people saying the same thing,” Mayor Ron Williams said in a separate interview.
The protocol, which is included in all paper and electronic agendas, details requirements for speakers during public meetings. While both BOMA and FMPC provide “Citizen’s Forum” options where individuals may speak on any topic, comments also are allowed regarding specific agenda items.
Williams said one reason for making the changes was to align the protocol for both entities.
Currently, all commentary is via e-mail, as public meetings continue to be held electronically due to the latest Executive Order, No. 60, from Gov. Bill Lee, who has extended the State of Emergency through the end of September.
That particular order allows municipalities the authority to conduct electronic meetings.
“We have our choice if we want to keep holding meetings electronically,” Williams said. “I don’t want to take the chance of submitting our staff, or any of us, to anything that would put us out of commission, so we will keep doing what we have been doing.
“It is better knowing that what we are doing is keeping us all safe,” he added.
The new protocol is printed below:
• The Board of Mayor and Aldermen welcomes and invites Farragut residents to participate in public meetings.
At the end of each business meeting, there will be time reserved for public comment under the Citizen Forum agenda item. If you are interested in speaking, please fill out a blue comment card and turn it in to the Town Recorder or staff member. This time is set aside specifically for comments on items that are not on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen regular agenda for the meeting. Each speaker will be given five minutes to speak on his/her topic.
During the regular agenda portion of the meeting there may be an allowance for public comment for each agenda item. The Mayor may recognize individuals for public comment based on guidelines, which include: any Farragut resident interested in speaking should fill out a blue comment card stating the agenda item they would like to comment on and turn in to the Town recorder or a staff member.
• Speakers shall come to the podium and identify themselves by name and street address;
• Public comment shall be limited to five minutes per individual. Time for public comment may be amended at the discretion of the Mayor. Time is not transferable to other speakers;
• Speakers should strive to avoid redundancy; each speaker should have their own original viewpoint;
• Comments shall address issues, not individuals or personalities;
• Comments may support or oppose issues or measures, but the motives of those with differing views shall not be questioned or attacked;
• Personal attacks and malicious comments shall not be tolerated;
• An applicant, and/or their representative(s), for an item on the regular agenda shall be afforded the time necessary to present their request and respond to questions. The five-minute limitation shall not apply. However, the Mayor may ask an applicant to stay on point in order to facilitate the efficiency of the meeting.
• Each speaker will be asked if they can agree to abide by the Comment Protocol. If so, please be prepared to speak when your name is called.
• It is unknown at this time when in-person meetings will resume due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Currently, meeting comments, including the individual’s name and address, must be received by noon the day of the meetings by e-mailing email@example.com.