Heights council to allow public comments at start of meeting

Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — The City Council is working toward allowing residents to speak before agenda items are voted on during public meetings.

The idea was brought up by Councilwoman Lisa Hicks-Clayton when she drafted and presented a letter to other council members Sept. 11. A study session was then held on Sept. 20 regarding the change.

Under the new meeting procedure, residents will have the chance to speak or ask questions about about agenda items. A time limit of three minutes is being discussed for each resident.

“We want to encourage our residents to ask about items that we vote on,” Hicks-Clayton said. “They have higher satisfaction when they are engaged in the conversation and able to connect.”

The change is currently being formally written by the council attorney and will be on the Oct. 11 meeting agenda for a vote by the council.

If the idea is adopted, the council will have a 90-day test period to fix or tweak any issues.

The newly added public comment time will follow the call of members, pledge of allegiance, agenda approval and approval of minutes.

“I would like urge you all in favor of changing the agenda to let the residents speak,” resident Deb Brown-England said during the Sept. 27 council meeting. “This format works in other cities, I’ve seen it work. I have gone to meetings in other cities.”

Currently, the council allows residents to speak after the agenda items have been completed, and this will remain, giving the public two attempts to address issues.

This idea for a second public comment section during meetings came from requests by residents and discussions Hicks-Clayton had during Michigan Municipal League meetings.

If approved Dearborn Heights will join Dearborn, Garden City and Westland as other local cities that allow public comment before addenda items are addressed.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)