FARGO — Starting with its Monday, Aug. 10, meeting, the Fargo City Commission will institute new rules on how it will accept public comment at commission meetings.
One change involves a move to more clearly define which items on the agenda are open for public comment.
At future meetings, agenda items of considerable public interest will be denoted by the words: "Public Input Opportunity."
According to a statement released by the city on Thursday, agenda items receiving the new public input opportunity label are items that in the past likely would not have been open to public discussion.
Also, according to the statement, the commission will establish a scheduled "resident comment" period during regular commission meetings, during which the Commission will give residents 2 1/2 minutes to air their thoughts. The move is an effort to foster additional dialogue opportunities, the statement said.
During that period, one resident at a time will be allowed at the podium, and individuals must provide their full name and address for the meeting minutes.
The comment period will be limited to 30 minutes overall.
Comments will be encouraged on any relevant topic, but inflammatory or inappropriate language will not be allowed, the statement released by the city said.
Officials said the comment period is intended for listening and learning purposes and that City Commission comment or action will not happen during the comment session.
The city statement said the change is due to what transpired during a city commission meeting July 27, when representatives of OneFargo, a local social justice group, spoke up to criticize the city's decision to appoint Deputy Police Chief Ross Renner as temporary police chief following the retirement of Police Chief David Todd.
During the July 27 commission meeting, Mayor Tim Mahoney attempted to talk about the issue but was interrupted by a number of audience members.
A microphone that was being used by Wess Philome, a OneFargo organizer, was turned off.
"This is what you do. You say you want discussion, but when we have discussion, my microphone gets cut off," Philome said after being cut off.
Gregg Schildberger, director of communications and governmental affairs for the city of Fargo, said that while the last commission meeting accelerated implementation of the new opportunities for public input, additional improvements — including an online, real-time interactive option that will happen soon — have been in development for months.