Thursday, September 26, 2019

Public Hearings

There are a number of occasions where part of the Council decision-making process includes conducting a public hearing.  This is an opportunity for members of the public to share thoughts, concerns, support, or questions about a particular question placed in front of the Council.  The Council listens to the comments from the public and can use that information to inform their decisions, or at least that's the idea.

In practice, however, public hearings often boil down to theatrics.  Public hearings are routinely held immediately before the Council is asked to make a decision on a matter.  This provides little time for deliberation or follow-up on public input by members of the Council, City staff, and other members of the public.  The Council can agree by a majority vote to postpone a decision, but that means deviating from the default procedure.  

When I am elected to the Ferndale City Council, I will propose and advocate for changes to this standard operating procedure.  All members of the public should be provided an opportunity to share their comments, and the Council should be provided an opportunity to properly consider those comments when making these important decisions.  I will propose that standard operating procedures be updated to allow for public hearings to remain open for written comment for a minimum of 24 hours following the in-person hearing and that at least a week is provided to Council for deliberation following the hearing, with a vote routinely scheduled for the next regularly scheduled City Council meeting.  Of course, in specific situations, the majority of Council could vote to modify these rules in cases of emergency or other urgent need, however, it would reset the default procedure to not only allow, but encourage public engagement in determining how the City of Ferndale will approach decisions that ultimately affect all of us.  

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