Can I speak at a city council meeting?
YES. YES. YES.
By all means, I encourage you to come to a city council meeting and share your thoughts on anything happening in the city. You can come and talk about an item on our agenda, which provides us with feedback and insight that is very valuable to us as we make our decisions. Or, if you just want to share a concern about something in general that’s not on the agenda, we have a special time near the beginning of each meeting set aside for that.
I do appreciate when constituents call me and share their concerns. But it can also be very important if you share your thoughts with the entire council so everyone hears you. This is especially helpful on issues where opinions in the city may be a bit divided. When we vote on such issues, I’m only one of eight votes; convincing the other seven could help.
And to be clear, I strongly encourage you to attend if I happen to disagree with your ideas. If I’m your alderman, and you bring a concern to me, and I don’t agree, it doesn’t end there. Talk to the entire council to see what kind of support you can muster.
Our meetings are the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of every month. If a meeting falls on an election day, then it’s moved to the following Wednesday (the next day). We meet at 7:30pm at De Pere City Hall, on the corner of S Broadway and Merrill St. Enter through the front door of City Hall, turn left, then take the elevator or stairs to the 2nd floor. The council chambers are just off the elevator.
How to speak
When you arrive, you’ll see a sheet near the door where you can sign-up to speak. If you’re speaking about an item on our agenda, the mayor will call on you when we get to that item. If you’re speaking about something not on the agenda, the mayor will call on you during the open comment part of the meeting (usually within the first 10 minutes or so). When he gets to the end of the list, he’ll offer the opportunity for anyone else to speak who may not have signed up.
Also, even if you don’t sign up, you can still speak. When we get to that agenda item, you just need to raise your hand or somehow get the attention any alderperson. We each have the authority to make a motion to stop the meeting and open it up for comments. We then vote on that motion and if approved, the meeting is open and you can speak.
Prepared statement or just wing it
Some people bring a prepared statement that they read from. Some people bring notes that they refer to. Some just speak off the top of their head. While the meeting itself is somewhat formal, your comments don’t need to be. Just tell us what’s on your mind.
If you’re a little unsure of how it works, I recommend you watch the video of our July 17, 2012 meeting. We considered the issue of allowing residents to raise chickens, and several people came to speak to us about their concerns, including a 12-year-old boy. (When watching the video, forward it to about 50 minutes into the meeting to get right to this issue.)
Can I just listen?
If you prefer not to speak, that’s fine too. You can just attend and listen to the proceedings. I happen to think they’re quite interesting. And if something you hear moves you to want to share a comment, just get the attention of one of us as I mentioned above.