DEL MAR — People who want council and city committee members to consider their opinions when making decisions will soon have a deadline to submit comments.
Council members at the Aug. 7 meeting approved the change, agreeing all letters and emails must be received by noon the day of a meeting. They said they will read all communications at some point but would only deliberate based on those turned in by the deadline.
Once an agenda is posted, people may submit comments either by mail or email. In Del Mar they are called red dots because historically each one had a red dot affixed to the upper right corner, although that has become sporadic with the advent of email.
Those comments sometimes come in an hour or two before a meeting start time and, depending on the topic, can be numerous. About 80 were submitted for a recent item about changing off-leash dog hours on the beach and there have been hundreds addressing short-term rentals.
“Red dots have gotten out of hand,” Mayor Terry Sinnott said. “They’re almost fake. I know they’re all well-intended … but it’s like they’re flooding the council in an organized way in a very last-minute kind of thing, which I discount a little bit because of how it’s done.”
Sinnott said he would much rather have someone send a red dot requesting a phone call.
The agenda for a Monday City Council meeting used to be posted the preceding Friday. Ashley Jones, the administrative services director, said now that the agenda is available about a week before each meeting, people have more time to comment.
Leslie Devaney, the city attorney, said the deadline is “perfectly legal.”
Although there will be no guarantee red dots will be distributed to and read by council members for consideration at the meeting for which they were submitted, all communications will become part of the record.
Council members all said they always eventually read every comment submitted and that will not change.
“I will read your red dots,” Councilwoman Ellie Haviland said. “I promise you.”
“We are working to implement this policy as soon as possible, however, there will be some leeway over the next few meetings as we continue to notify the public about the change,” Jones said.
People who miss the deadline but want to guarantee their input will be considered can attend the meeting and speak during the public comment period.
In addition to council meetings, the new rule will apply to red dots for all city committees, including the Planning Commission and Design Review Board.
City Council-related red dots should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Those for the
Planning Commission or DRB should be submitted to email@example.com.
Contact Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or (858) 704-3640 for more information.