|Agenda item request form revised: Gering city staff could address citizen requests|
|February 12, 2015 Jerry Purvis|
Gering has modified its request form for getting an item on the council agenda in hopes of eliminating confusion over when and how citizens can bring their concerns to the council.
The current request form has been in existence for almost 20 years. “With those forms, we saw the opportunity to make more efficient use of everyone’s time,” Mayor Tony Kaufman said. “The change we’re proposing is allowing staff to address a citizen’s concern as it’s submitted or give them the opportunity to address the council.”
Kaufman added that most people just want their problem resolved. The form allows city staff to remedy the problem directly without waiting for the next council meeting.
Gering resident Kirk Arnold said the problem with the form is a lack of transparency. The revised form was approved by a committee without input from the public. However, committees cannot vote to approve any item they consider. Members can only recommend the item be approved or disapproved and forward it to the full council.
Kaufman said the revised agenda item request form has nothing to do with items referred to committees, but only items in general for consideration by the full council.
“This form has been in use for some 20 years,” Kaufman said. “It doesn’t inhibit anything from coming to council, but has added the opportunity for staff to resolve the issue. Even if staff resolves the person’s issue, that person can still address the council so we know what’s going on. That’s absolutely their prerogative. We’re not denying any access to the council.”
Council member Phillip Holliday said people were confused about the new revised form. “By no means are we using this form to disallow anyone to directly address the council,” he said. “That’s the worst thing we could possibly do. What this form is strictly doing is allowing people the opportunity to come before council or have the issue resolved right away, whichever they want.”
Council member Larry Gibbs said the confusion might have occurred when the council removed the public comment period from the agenda for every meeting. “People are assuming the new form is taking the place of the public comments and precluded them from addressing the council,” he said. “I think we can solve the problem by returning the public comment period to the agenda and adopting this new form for items to be put on the agenda.”
Council members unanimously approved the revised request form and Gibbs said he would place an item on the agenda in the near future that would return the public comments period as a permanent part of each council meeting’s agenda.
In other action, Mayor Kaufman announced that he and the council anticipated a vacancy in the Ward II council seat in the coming weeks and said the city would now accept applications for the position.
Ward II council member Rebecca Shields, who won re-election last November, is expected to move out of her ward and into Ward I soon. Under state statute, once an official moves from the district in which he or she was elected, the seat becomes vacant and the board must appoint a replacement.