San Bernardino Seal

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 01/06/15, 5:29 PM PST | Updated: 55 secs ago

SAN BERNARDINO >> An attempt to streamline City Council meetings will significantly limit the time members of the public have to address items the council considers noncontroversial.

The decision — and particularly Mayor Carey Davis’ announcement, which unintentionally suggested that each speaker’s time to address everything on the agenda would be limited to three minutes total — led some residents to accuse city officials of blocking out opinions.

“It’s a matter of stifling public opinion and not hearing dissenting opinions,” resident Joe Ortiz said Tuesday, the day after the meeting at which Davis announced the change. “They don’t want to hear my opinion. I can’t change their mind (but)… the more information you discuss, the more it changes how people might vote — not necessarily the council members, but at least the residents.”

Beginning at the next meeting, Jan. 20, the council will make three changes to how it does its businesses.

• Any actions taken during closed session, such as direction given in a lawsuit, will be announced at the beginning of the meeting rather than a bit later when the city attorney has an opportunity to speak.

• Before the council discusses the consent calendar — a block of items that officials consider routine and noncontroversial — members of the public will have three minutes each to discuss all of those items. Previously, any member of the public could “pull” an item off the consent calendar and discuss it for three minutes; now, only council members or the mayor will be able to pull an item to speak on.

• Elected officials’ announcements, which have been one of the first items on the agenda, will be moved to the back.

As before, a separate comment period will give members of the public three minutes each to discuss any items that weren’t on the agenda but that they want to speak upon.

“As far as moving (elected officials’) announcements to the end, I think it shows a commitment to hear what the public has to say,” said City Clerk Gigi Hanna. “The later it goes, the more participation goes down.”

Monday’s meeting, for example, lasted from 4 p.m. until after 10 p.m., and by the time Davis made his announcement at the end of the meeting only a handful of people were still in attendance.

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