Communications from Citizens: how YOU can make a difference
If you think this summer’s reduction in resident services via the city’s cutback to a 4-day work week for all non-Emergency Service employees is a bad deal, I encourage you to get down to City Hall and speak before Council during the Communications From Citizens portion of their meeting. Residents need to stand up and tell our representatives on council that this is wrong both for the residents and city employees alike. It is only through applied pressure that a change to this policy will be made.
If you are a newcomer to City Council meetings as I was a couple of short years ago, then you should know about the Communications from Citizens portion of the meeting. On the agenda of every City Council meeting, it will start no later than 10PM should the agenda be a particularly busy one, and it usually begins earlier than that.
It is your opportunity to participate in the democratic process and speak on any topic not covered directly by an agenda item. John and Pauline Holeton used this venue — as non-residents — to force the Council to act on passing a resolution regarding so-called ‘Smart Meters’ just a few weeks ago. If you think carefully about what you have to say and are patient, determined, and say it well, you too can have a similar effect for whatever issue is on your mind.
If, like many, you don’t feel comfortable speaking in public, I would recommend you write or call your council members and let them know how you feel. Their phone numbers and email addresses follow this paragraph. However, in my opinion it is best to speak before council: you are more sure you will have their attention this way.
Mayor Richard J. Notte
Mayor Pro Tem Michael C. Taylor
Councilwoman Deanna Koski
Councilman Joseph V. Romano
Councilwoman Maria G. Schmidt
Councilman Paul Smith
Councilwoman Barbara A. Ziarko
Finally, I’ve snipped my portion of the Communications From Citizens section from the video of the January 17, 2012 meeting and posted it below. I don’t think my approach to speaking to these people is the only way it can or should be done, but this is what seems to work for me. Feel free to take or leave the advice below:
- Work from notes, rather than from a prepared, written speech. It sounds far more natural, and it allows you to put more of a personal touch on your comments.
- Try to keep your comments relatively brief. If you watch carefully, speakers at the podium tend to begin losing members of council right around the 4 – 7 minute mark unless they’re absolutely electrifying for some reason. Most of us, myself included, are not electrifying public speakers. (I would be happy to just be regarded as merely competent, and I keep working toward that goal.) If you see eyes glazing over, or worse, members getting up and excusing themselves from the room, you’ve gone on for too long.
- If you don’t have a lot to say, don’t try to fill the time, getting in and out in under a minute is fine as long as you get your point across.
- Try to avoid asking questions that Council cannot answer. They do not often respond directly to resident comments, and frequently they will refer frequently asked questions to the City Administration. For example: if you want to know what hours the park is open in the wintertime, search the web or call Parks and Rec. If you want to say why you think those hours should be different somehow, tell City Council at the meeting!
- Be respectful and polite. Remember, you’re also on TV, and I can testify people recognize you at the grocery store the next day. I would rather they disagreed with me but at least found what I had to say to be polite and respectful than have them agree with me but have reservations about how I said it!
- Look your best. Personally I feel I should at least wear a tie when I speak, but wear whatever you feel best represents who you are.
At any rate, here is what I had to say in the video below.
Posted on January 23, 2012, in Issues and views and tagged contacting council, cut-backs, speaking. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Communications from Citizens: how YOU can make a difference.