City Councilors returned from their winter break on Monday, January 13, and devoted time to a process session focusing on the format of council meetings. The intent of the session was to address equity and access concerns about the public forum as well as to create a more welcoming environment for community members who provide testimony. Council has been concerned that the length of the forums can discourage community members from waiting to testify and that testimony given repeatedly on the same topic can make it difficult to get to new testimony on time-sensitive issues council is currently addressing, or for council to have adequate time for topic discussions and other items within the scheduled meeting time.
Public Forum Modifications
Council has approved three modifications to begin at the Monday, January 27, public forum:
- Testimony time will change from three minutes to two minutes
- The public forum will be limited to 90 minutes to ensure it is completed by 9 p.m. to allow for other council business and discussion
- Testimony will be randomly ordered to support equitable participation
Council will review these changes in six months and feedback is welcome.
Public Forum is an opportunity for the community to convey information or concerns directly to the City Council. These forums occur on the second and fourth Monday of every month at 7:30 p.m. This pilot is an effort to make City Council meetings and the public forum more accessible and equitable by reducing wait time, ensuring a certain ending time, and creating a more equitable system for ordering testimony.
Staff will also be implementing a series of administrative changes to encourage respectful behavior and to provide suggestions on how to provide effective testimony. Additionally, staff will work to increase community awareness of the public forum and will be exploring the feasibility of convening the public forum in locations outside of the downtown core.
In its review of the council meeting process, council reviewed other city processes throughout the region to understand the time limits for their public forums. Springfield limits its public forum to 20 minutes, Portland to 25 minutes, and Roseburg to 30 minutes. Over the last year, City of Eugene public forums have averaged about 1 hour 26 minutes. Providing 90 minutes for public forum will allow participants to have a clearer understanding of the timeframe when public comment will occur while providing council with time to finish topic discussions without the need to extend meeting times.
City Council meetings, work sessions, and public forums are held in Harris Hall at 125 E 8th Ave, (unless noticed otherwise) and are streamed live on the City’s website.