During the first regular council meeting under a new administration, the Guyton City Council restored two separate public participation mechanisms revoked under the previous mayor and council.
The council met Wednesday as the regular meeting was postponed due to the inclement weather.
Among the items on the agenda was a resolution to amend the meeting Rules of Decorum which had been passed as a result of criticism by the public against former Mayor Russ Deen and two other council members.
Councilman Jeremiah Chancey presented the agenda item saying he had worked with the city attorney to amend the language for consideration by council. He explained that he’d campaigned on public participation and it was important to him that public comments be allowed in a more meaningful way during meetings.
Specifically, the public will be granted up to 10 minutes on specific agenda items set to be discussed by council with discretion by the mayor to allow additional time. They’ll also be afforded the opportunity to speak at the time the issue is set to be discussed instead of at rhetoric very beginning or very end of the meeting.
Two administrations ago, public comment was a robust part of the city council meeting process. It was taken away in the Russ Deen era when citizens began vocalizing their opposition to matters of council during open meetings.
The amended rules of decorum were approved unanimously. People can still make requests to be placed on the agenda if they have a concern about a specific issue that isn’t slated to be discussed. That form is available on the city website.
Also passed Wednesday night was a resolution directing city staff to open comments in social media comments
City Manager Maketa Brown expressed her opposition to this move, saying the Facebook page should be like the website – one way information only- and that most cities don’t allow people to comment at all. In Effingham County, Springfield and Rincon both allow public comments on all posts. In neighboring Statesboro, Port Wentworth, and Bulloch and Screven County governments, comments from the public are also allowed. Even larger cities like Savannah, Augusta, Columbus, and Atlanta allow discourse.
The measure passed 4-0 with express support from Mayor Andy Harville. He will be responsible for monitoring the comments to make sure no obscene comments are made.