Gainesville finalizes changes to meeting rules

The Gainesville City Commission will now start its twice monthly regular meetings at 10 a.m. after passing a resolution that alters a handful of rules that govern how it conducts business.

The commission approved the resolution 5-1 Thursday evening. In addition to altering its meeting time, the changes cover several areas of public comment.

Public comment will now be taken at the beginning of discussion of each motion, rather than at the end. Public comment will only be taken once during discussion of an item and not on every motion.

With special meetings and workshops on specific topics, public comments will only be taken on those items and topics. General public comment only will be opened if adopted as part of the meeting’s agenda.

With these changes, the commission also will no longer vote on the consent agenda and the regular agenda separately and will consider them in one motion. The city commission has at times this year taken 45 minutes or more to get through the approval of the consent and regular agendas.

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos originally proposed 17 changes to the commission’s rules at the Oct. 28 General Policy Committee meeting. Of those, 11 were approved by the full commission.

Gainesville City Commisioner Adrian Hayes-Santos

However, several of the 11 rules were not included in the resolution passed Thursday after the city attorney’s office determined that the provisions were already part of the commission’s existing rules.

Language Hayes-Santos suggested be added to the rules of decorum were changed in the meeting Thursday. At the end of a list of behaviors considered disruptive, the commission added: “Indecorous language directed at personalities that is irrelevant to the issue at hand.”

The city attorney’s office also nixed a commission effort to prevent people from using public comment periods to advocate for a candidate running for office.

Interim City Attorney Daniel Nee told the commission Thursday that the proposed rule change could be considered an “improper content-based regulation.”

The commission in October voted to offer translation services for people who register in advance, but since the city needs to work out the system and the cost of providing these services, the translation effort was assigned to the Language Access Working Group to flesh out.

Similarly, City Clerk Omichele Gainey and city staffers have been asked to return to the commission with a system for managing in-person speakers at the city’s meetings. The commission has talked about both sign-up sheets and speaker cards as ways to better manage the in-chamber discussions.

Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker was the lone vote against the changes both times.

In October, she said, “I am not interested in adopting anything that limits the community’s ability to access us or meetings in any way or to make public comments.”

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