South Lake Tahoe City Council to resume televising public comments
South Lake Tahoe City Council will resume televising and streaming all public comments at its meetings, even if the comments pertain to issues that aren’t scheduled to be discussed.
The council briefly suspended televising and streaming what are known as public comments on non-agenda items. The comments take place near the beginning of each meeting and allow anyone to raise issues relevant to the city, even if the topics are not on the meeting’s agenda.
At its meeting Tuesday, April 19, council voted unanimously to resume televising and streaming comments on non-agenda items. The council also approved extending the time limit for the comments from 3 to 4 minutes for each speaker, while still allowing the mayor discretion in extending the time limit.
Discussion at the meeting centered around balancing public access to city council meetings through televising the comments with the possibility of someone using the comment period for electioneering or making slanderous comments.
“Your role here today is balancing those competing interests,” said South Lake Tahoe’s city manager Nancy Kerry.
Ultimately, the council decided allowing the comments to be televised is the best policy.
“I just think it’s good business,” said council member Tom Davis.
Several people who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting said they supported televising the comments.
“Common decency is the yardstick you should use, I should use,” said South Lake Tahoe resident and former council member Bill Crawford.
He said he couldn’t recall a time during his eight years on city council when anyone got out of control during the comments. He added the city has the mechanisms, mainly a gavel and sergeant-at-arms, to regulate comments if someone does.
“You simply have to use your judgment if someone is not up here to be decent,” Crawford said.
Mayor Wendy David and Councilman Hal Cole both called the temporary suspension of televising the comments a mistake. Cole apologized to the public for the interruption.
The city has televised public comments on non-agenda items from 1998 to 2003 and from 2011 until now.
Under California’s open meeting laws, the council is not allowed to discuss an issue raised during public comments on non-agenda items at length or take action until the issue is placed on an agenda.