Santa Monica Lookout
|New Rules Let Residents Speak Longer at Santa Monica City Council Meetings||
By Jason Islas
October 29, 2013 -- At a special meeting Saturday, the Santa Monica City Council voted to try new rules that would allow people to speak longer than the two minutes currently allowed at Council meetings.
Allowing speakers to yield time is allowed at Planning Commission meetings.
An original proposal, which put no limits on the amount of time that could be donated to any one, failed because of concerns that people would “game the system,” according to Councilmember Gleam Davis.
"What I see happening is that the people we are not hearing from now will be asked to donate time," she said. "I think the current system works fine. I think maybe we just need to be better managers of it."
The Council allowed time donations at its August 13 meeting and the result was chaotic, according to several Councilmembers.
Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day and Mayor Pam O’Connor joined Davis in voting against the original motion.
After it failed, Councilmember Ted Winterer proposed another motion, which limited the amount of time donated to a speaker to a maximum of two extra minutes. He also clarified that anyone donating time would have to be present at the meeting.
Under Winterer’s motion, speakers would also still be limited to six minutes of speaking time a meeting.
Winterer said that during his time as a Planning Commission, the “opportunity to donate time was not used that frequently," but that it did add to the conversation by allowing people the time to expound more thoughtfully on their opinions.
The lone no vote was cast by O’Day because he believed the practice of donating time could lead to a “less democratic” system.
O’Day said that while donating time would be theoretically voluntary, he worried that it would lead to a situation in which people who are “more aggressive or assertive about their views are cajoling” others to donate time.
While O’Connor voted in favor of Winterer’s motion, she said, the new rules “in effect raised the time to four minutes per speaker.”
She also pointed out that, under the current rules, speakers are allowed to coordinate their speaking times and that organized groups can take advantage of that to make longer presentations to the Council.
Councilmember Bob Holbrook was absent from Saturday’s meeting.
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