BLUFFDALE If you like to speak your mind, then Bluffdale's City Council meetings might be the thing for you.
Just don't expect to get to bed on time if you go to the twice-monthly, Tuesday night meetings.
The council is considering adding rules to its meetings that would allow residents to make comments on any item on their open meeting agenda in an effort to encourage public involvement. It's an unusual move, one that was initially inspired by a desire to streamline the lengthy meetings, but council members say they hope tweaking the rules will give their residents greater involvement in the public process.
"I thought it was bogging down our meetings, but since we've been doing that, I've noticed the attendance has picked up," council member Bill Maxwell said of the mayor's tendency to take public comment outside of scheduled public hearings and the public comment portion of the meeting. "People seem to come down if they think they're going to have a say in things, and I think that's a positive thing. We need more participation, not less, so if that makes our meetings go a little longer, I'm willing to go there."
The council asked Bluffdale's city manager Tuesday night to draft a set of rules that will be followed in the council meetings and posted on the outside of the council chamber doors for each meeting.
The proposed rules would allow residents four minutes to comment on any item on the agenda during the public comment portion of the meeting, and two minutes after city presentations on the meeting's various topics are complete. Council members can choose to extend the time limit.
If adopted, Bluffdale's rules would be a variation on the commonly accepted Robert's Rules of Order, which are used by most cities as a guideline to parliamentary procedure. Robert's rules are not a mandate, but they establish a general format for meetings.
"Robert's rules provide a framework for you so if you don't have written rules, you always have a book to go back to," said council member Nancy Lord. "But any particular organization can set rules that are different, so long as they enact them appropriately."
Lord, Maxwell and Mayor Claudia Anderson are the council veterans, with two years of service under their belts. The rest of the council members are newly elected, and still looking to find a system that works.
The council's meetings run, on average, until 11 p.m. or midnight. Since January, none of the council's regular meetings have ended before 10 p.m., and five of the 10 meetings that occurred until the end of May ended close to midnight, or as late as 2 a.m.
The rule change could backfire and make the meetings longer and more chaotic, but Maxwell says he's willing to take the risk."If it's not accomplishing our purposes, then maybe we have to go back to stricter rules, but let's give it a try," Maxwell said. "If citizens are willing to be involved in the public process, then that's just great."
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