NN City Council limits public comment time

Jordan Crawford | 8/11/2014, 8:47 a.m.
In a vote last month, Newport News city council ruled to change the time limit for its public comment period.

Long-winded comments from passionate residents during city council meetings are equally as entertaining as they are informative. However, since last Thursday Newport News City Council meetings will have their public comments limited to three minutes each.

In a 4-3 vote in early July, the council decided to change its rules to limit loquacious citizens to three minutes for public comment instead of the existing five-minute limit.

Council members Pat Woodbury, Sharon Scott and Herbert Bateman had voted against the change.

“I really, really don’t want to stifle our citizens,” said Scott. “Often when they come down, there are important things to say and it takes longer than three minutes to say it.”

The vote occurred during the council’s organizational meeting, which is held at the beginning of each new term, before the regular meeting July 8. A notice of the organizational meeting was posted, but an agenda was not.

“It’s true, some people can get a little carried away with their comments and questions,” said Tyler Mackey of Newport News. “I’ve been to a few city council meetings. I remember one time a guy was trying to take everyone to church with a mini sermon it seemed, he was saying ‘amen, church’ and everything.”

The time limit can be extended, in certain cases, Council member Saundra Cherry told concerned residents during Monday’s East End Neighborhood Association meeting.

Cherry encourages residents to write down their comments ahead of time and to research the topic to make sure they have the facts, she said.