Editorial: Open forum changes good for dialogue

Published 9:28 am Friday, January 13, 2017

We applaud the Albert Lea City Council’s vote Monday night to update its procedures for open forums.

Under the previous rules, people were allowed to come before the council with a concern about only one topic at a time. After the Monday vote, residents may now bring multiple topics to the council on any given day.

We think allowing people to discuss multiple topics is a good step for opening up communication with residents and will ultimately help city leaders find out more information or hear concerns. Sometimes people think of other things to talk about or need clarification on an item once they are at the podium.

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The vote Monday did not change how long people can speak — three minutes — though City Manager Chad Adams said people can ask for additional time on nights with light agendas. That is in comparison with the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners, which gives speakers five minutes to speak, and the Albert Lea School Board, which gives two minutes.

The council, mayor and city administration should not be required to give an answer to questions immediately, and will be better able to provide a complete answer if given adquate time to research and comment at the following meeting. Answers to these questions can be addressed during the city manager’s time to speak.

We agree that people should not direct comments toward any one member of the council and should direct their remarks to the council as a whole.

It is our opinion that procedures may have tightened up in the past because one individual tended to take advantage of the open forum. Let’s not allow one or two people to ruin it for others.