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Video: Should City or County Leaders Limit Citizens’ Input Time At Meetings?

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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — Chances are, if you’ve been to a Columbus City Council meeting, you’ve seen Barry Hinds. ┬áHe’s a resident who never shies away from the mic. Hinds enjoys sharing his thoughts, ideas and in some cases, disappointment with the council. But even he has seen some odd comments from people who take the podium.

“There’s people who want to add to the discourse and input to the council and other citizens who come up, kind of advertising an item that they’re starting or a business or organization,” said Hinds.

The Columbus City Council is considering revamping its public appearance policy.

“If a citizen comes before the mayor and the council and signs up for citizens input agenda, you have from 3 to 5 minutes,” said Smith.

That’s the way it’s supposed to work. But in recent months, citizen input has dragged on for hours on subjects all over the map. One possible approach is limiting the number of times a person can speak to 2 or 3 times a year. Mayor Robert Smith doesn’t mind discussing the policy, but urges councilmen not to take it lightly.

“If you want to say that a citizen cannot come before the council but 2 or 3 times during the year, then it needs to be consistent and it needs to be done fairly across the board,” said Mayor Smith.

In West Point, the mayor and selectmen have a strict citizen input procedure.

“The board here allows up to 2 minutes for public appearances. ┬áSimply fill out an application for a public appearance before the board meeting, at least 5 days ahead of time, so at least we can look at the information and possibly have answers for them instead of just a shot out of left field.” said West Point Chief Administrative Officer Randy Jones.

Does Berry think some opinions are outrageous at times? Yes. But he thinks leaders should just monitor time and keep their current policy.

“I’m wondering why all of a sudden they have to do something. I think they can use the policy diligently. I think the citizens of Columbus have an opportunity to use it the same way. I don’t see a need to change,” Hinds said.

Councilmen will discuss the possible changes at Tuesday’s meeting.