Santa Rosa Mayor Ernesto Olivares has reversed the council’s policy of turning off TV cameras during public comments on issues not on the council meeting agenda. “I do really appreciate the concerns expressed by the members of the public about transparency and the need for open government here in Santa Rosa,” Olivares said.
For now, the Petaluma City Council will keep public comments at the beginning of the meeting.The council discussed making various changes Monday night, but in the end, took no formal action. City Attorney Eric Danly said the city’s rules are flexible enough to handle excess or rambling speakers on a case-by-case basis.
People hoping to address the Santa Rosa City Council on issues not covered by the meeting agenda will continue to wait until the end of the meetings. Mayor Ernesto Olivares rejected Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre’s proposal to move the public comments to a more convenient time for the public. “I think past mayors have decided wisely to move it to the end,” he said.
As a test next week, the Petaluma City Council will shift the public comment section to the end of its meetings. Councilmembers are fed up with a steady stream of public comments that have bogged down recent City Council meetings, many on topics not within the control of city leaders. “What we’re getting is public comment that over and over, almost at every meeting, is not germane to this jurisdiction,” Mayor David Glass said.
At the end of each meeting, the Santa Rosa City Council gives the public a chance to speak about anything they want — for three minutes each. But Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre wants to change that. She says it is unfair and disrespectful to residents who take the time out to address their council but then must wait hours to do so.