Encinitas City Council discusses recordings of public comments

ENCINITAS — The City Council agreed to tweak its policy in the way it records public comments in the official minutes during Wednesday’s meeting.Kathy Hollywood, the interim city clerk told the council that the city’s practice of recording so-called “action minutes” is the most popular form of record keeping among the various municipalities she surveyed. “Eight out of 10 cities reported they use action item minutes format,” she said.

Some residents asked that the written record of speakers provide more detail, especially during oral communications. At the beginning of each meeting 15 minutes is set aside for public speakers to address any subject not on the current agenda. Each speaker is given three minutes. Often times the speaker’s name is recorded but not the subject.

“What we’re seeing now, what good is that doing to you or anyone to know who it was or what is was about?” asked Donna Westbrook, an Encinitas resident and frequent public speaker. “It’s a good way to hide something, let’s put it that way,” she told the council.

Westbrook asked that the subject or topic and person’s name who spoke be put in the record. She also asked the council to correct the minutes when asked by a public speaker. “I’ve seen other cities put in a correction to the minutes, it can’t be that difficult if someone requests it to change it.”

She implored the council to be more comprehensive in it’s recording of public speakers’ comments. “Its gone back to the dark ages, bring us back to the light,” she said.

Lisa Shaffer asked the council to practice what Westbrook was suggesting and change the April 18 meeting minutes to accurately reflect her statements.

Lynn Marr asked that the length of oral communications be extended to 30 minutes. “It’s important to show your good faith to the community,” she said. She also said that special presentations that occur at the beginning of each meeting don’t have a time limit.

Sheila Cameron, a former council member and mayor of the city, supported extending the time allotted to oral communications. Cameron said the practice of delaying public speakers until the end of the meeting if there are too many and would exceed the 15-minute time limit was “ridiculous.” “It’s a form of transparency. I really think it is taking away peoples’ rights and diminishing democracy,” she said. “That’s not a good legacy for you to leave,” she told the council.

Council member Jim Bond disagreed with Cameron and Marr saying that increasing the time for oral communications would interrupt “doing the peoples’ business.”

“We are doing the peoples’ business,” Mayor Jerome Stocks said. He said the 15 minutes of oral communications prior to addressing the agenda items was sufficient.

“If we allowed too much time (for oral communications) we could literally get the peoples’ business hijacked,” Stocks said.

Council member Mark Muir said reviewing the video of the meeting is the “best way to know what happened.”

After extensive research of the records, following the adoption of action minutes in 1998, council member Teresa Barth said she found inconsistency in how the public speakers were recorded that spoke on agenda items, and consistently little information on those who spoke during oral communications.

Barth motioned and was seconded by Deputy Mayor Kristin Gaspar that under oral communications, a speaker’s name and topic be recorded. In addition, under agenda items, the speaker’s name and whether they spoke in support or opposition to the item be recorded. The motion passed unanimously.



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