MORROW The days of Morrow residents being able to stand up and speak their minds in a rather informal format are likely coming to an end.
The Morrow City Council is weighing new models for conducting public comment at council meetings.
Under each model, the city would likely convert the public comment period to a more structured format that may dramatically alter the small-town, carte-blanche feel of public input in Morrow.
“You know how public comment now requires a card, and basically they’ve come up and the city clerk fills out the card for them?” said City Manager Jeff Eady to council members Tuesday. “This basically says they will get the card from the back of the room, fill it out and present it to the city clerk prior to the meeting so they can get on the agenda to discuss whatever item.”
The Council is expected to debate the proposed public comment models at a called work session and business meeting Monday. The work session will begin at 6 p.m., and the business meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. Both sessions will take place at the Morrow Municipal Complex, 1500 Morrow Road, in Morrow.
While a pre-meeting sign-up appears to be included in each proposed model, council members still have to decide whether to have public comment at the beginning of the meetings, or at the end of their meetings. Public comment is currently at the end of the meetings.
However, Eady said the council has the option to craft an entirely different model from what he is proposing.
“I offer two different drafts, so to speak, and these are just drafts,” Eady said. “We can come up with a third and a fourth if we need to.”
Residents currently have a dedicated period in meetings where they can speak their minds regardless of whether they were planning to speak at the meeting before it began. A blanket call for comments is put out by Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke and any citizen can get up and speak on any topic of their choosing.
Residents sometimes stand up to speak more than once at a meeting, giving the comment period more of a dialogue-type feel than a formal part of the meeting. That was the case during public comment this past Tuesday, when citizens used the period to debate whether the City Council had violated Georgia’s Open Meetings Act during a Nov. 5 executive session.
If a citizen doesn’t like something one of their neighbors said in public comment, they can also get up and offer a differing opinion under the current format.
Eady said he, City Councilman Larry Ferguson and City Clerk Evyonne Browning crafted the proposed public comment based on their examination of formats other cities in Clayton County use for public input.
“This is the cleanest, easiest way to keep order inside a meeting,” Eady said.
Ferguson added the change will be made merely to support existing rules.
“This is to supplement Roberts Rules of Order,” he said.