City councils in Mission and Roeland Park have each been grappling with changes to how they do business in recent months and on some aspects – notably public comment – may be headed in different directions.
Roeland Park heard a recommendation Monday to abolish taking comments from the public during its committee of the whole meetings. Mission last month added public comments to its committee meetings, which will function similar to a committee of the whole.
The Roeland Park proposal has not been adopted by the council yet and could face some opposition. The recommendation was made by Councilor Jennifer Gunby reporting on a task force study of council procedures. “This was not an easy decision,” Gunby said Monday. “While it does not sound ideal, it is the best decision for us.” Councilor Becky Fast said she would not favor the proposal since Roeland Park recently has tried moving to one council meeting per month rather than two with the committee meeting once per month as well. Teresa Kelly said she was “torn” by the proposal, but said the committee of the whole is the “time for us to talk.”
The number of comments coming from the public during committee of the whole meetings has been substantial lately but driven largely by the debate over a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes.
The number of meetings per month also is an issue in Roeland Park. Gunby suggested a meeting each Monday night, either a workshop or committee of the whole supplementing the council schedule. Staff had asked that the separated committee and council meetings – previously they were held on the same night – be continued until after budget season. City Clerk Debra Mootz noted that committee agendas are now being completed in one meeting. Previously, items ofter were carried over.
Fast also questioned the need for more meetings. “We are meeting twice as much as other cities. The school board only meets once per month,” she noted.
In Mission, the city has not only moved to add public comment at its committee meetings, but it will be adding all councilors to the membership of its two standing committees and have them both meet on the same night. Council meetings will remain on a separate night, so the council will be booked for meetings twice per month. Its new public comment policy reads as follows:
“Public comments will be allowed at committee meetings. “Public Comment”
cards will be available for the public to complete prior to meetings. These will
be provided to the chair of the committee. Public comments will also be
accepted from members of the public who have not completed a Public
Comment card. All public comments are at the discretion of the chair and