City Council guaranteed the public’s right to speak at meetings and changed how it conducts its meetings with little excitement Monday evening.
A similar proposal last year featured blowback from the public and disagreements between council members in a meeting that lasted three hours.
The approved ordinance gets rid of committee hearings that happen before council meetings, does away with the three-reading ordinance system and guarantees the right to speak at council meetings.
Council President Missy Mosby said the media had misconstrued what the ordinance was and that there was no system in place to deny someone the right to speak, but rather only the ability to limit that amount of time to speak. Typically, people are allotted three minutes to speak.
Mosby, while speaking with the Courier & Press Sunday, said the ordinance involved how to override a council person denying someone’s "time to speak."
The ordinance states:
"The presiding officer will recognize a period of time for all present at council meetings to provide a report. Prior to any such comments, the presiding officer may set a time limit allowed for each individual. Any member of council desiring that someone be heard that is denied the floor by these rules … may move to allow such person to address the council.”
Council debated how many members it would take to override the denial of someone’s “time to speak.” Councilpersons Anna Hargis, R-3rd Ward, Justin Elpers, R-2nd Ward, Connie Robinson, D-4th Ward, and Dan Adams, D-At-Large, wanted a system in which only two council members could override the president on a speaking denial.
In favor of having five members to override a denial, Councilwoman Michelle Mercer said, “We have majority vote on everything else.”
Robinson said majority rules in most matters for council, “but in something like when we’re offering people the opportunity to speak, I’d rather see two votes – a motion and a second.”
Starting in May, council meetings will start at 5:30 p.m. and will have discussion on ordinances up for a vote directly before a vote rather than having discussion during its committee hearings.
Council will also have a moment of silence following the Pledge of Allegiance. The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that prayer was OK during public meetings. Vanderburgh County Council has a public prayer during its meeting. Vanderburgh County Commissioners used to have prayer, but haven’t at any of its meetings in 2017.