Tonight the Santa Ana City Council meets at City Hall in Santa Ana. Conveniently for them, they have scheduled closed session for 5 pm and give no indication what time thy hope to stop chatting among themselves and get down to the public part of their business. My best estimate is that they should be opening up to the public around 6 pm, but get there as soon as you can so you don’t miss anything.
This meeting Mayor Pulido is expected to be in charge so we may haveÂ a slightly more friendly environment for members of the public to address their leaders. There are several items on the agenda that members of the public may have something to say about. Be it action on a resolution regarding the Arizona Immigration law, or the declaration of May 22nd as Harvey Milk Day.
After the perfunctory presentation of certificates and awards,Â a little dog and pony show should take somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour, the Council should take upÂ comments from the public. As has been pointed out hereÂ and here before, the city seems to have a rather restrictive view of how, when, and how long, they choose to listen to their constituents. As has also been pointed out, the view of the Council seems to be a bit outside what is allowed.
Here is the video compilation of what happened on April 5th with public comment at the Santa Ana Council meeting.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzL08u53SwI[/youtube]
Bluntly, the public comment is the portion of a City Council meeting where members of the public are allowed to address their elected officials in a public forum while those officials are conducting the official business they have been chosen to perform. The public has the right, within reasonable time limits on the length of time and an individual may speak on a particular issue that is scheduled for action by the council.
As I pointed out last month, the council cannot simply limit public comment on all items, including comments on items not on the agenda but in the jurisdiction of the council, to a total of 3 minutes for all items on that council agenda. Doing so makes it impossible for a member of the public to address the council on all matters of business before it that meeting. Such an action is contrary to the intent and function of the Brown Act Regulations.
Here is a word to the wise; when submitting your speaker notification form, list that you wish to speak during general public comment on general matters, and if there are other agenda items you wish to speak upon, list those items individually on a separate form. You can list the individual items on one form if you like, but if you have time, it would avoid confusion for the clerk and the Mayor if you complete a separate card for each individual agenda item.
Also, as I have noted previously, you cannot be prevented from addressing actions of the Council or its individual members in the forum for public comment. Despite what Mayor Pro Tem Alvarez seems to think, you can state the name of a member of the elected body regarding an action that member has taken. The specific was to do this is to structure your statement to address your concern through the chair of the meeting.
“Mr. Mayor, I wish to inform you and the Council that Council member insert name here …”
It is my hope to be at tonight’s meeting to comment on the failures of the Council to follow the intent of the Brown Act in their conduct of the public comment portion of their meetings. I hope to see you there. Feel free to EXPRESS YOURSELF to your elected officials. Just remember to be respectful, not use profanity, and they are going to have to at a minimum hear you out.
Just keep in mind that while they have to hear you out, they are free to do whatever they want in the end.