St. George walks back public comment in writing policy at city council meetings
When St. George Mayor Michele Randall introduced a new policy barring in-person public comments at city council meetings in early May, she said she hoped the ban would be temporary.
It looks like that hope will come to fruition. But not before the change sparked protests from upset residents who claimed it violated their First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
Randall announced May 23 that people in the southwest Utah city will once again be able to speak at city council meetings starting July 6, 2023 — roughly two months after the policy began.
The mayor decided to stop allowing in-person comments because she said they had become divisive and disrupted actual city business. At that time, the city began only accepting written comments.
In an attempt to keep that situation from repeating itself, Randall introduced some new rules for when public comment starts up again this summer.
- People who give a comment must reside within the city limits.
- Comments will be required to relate directly to city business.
- No profane language or personal attacks.
- Anyone who disrupts a council meeting with applause, protests or other noise will be asked to leave.
There will also be a limit of 10 people who can speak at each meeting, and each of them will be allotted two minutes. And in order to keep the same people from speaking at every meeting — something Randall described as a problem earlier this spring — anyone who gives a comment will not be allowed to give another spoken comment for the next three months.
Residents will still be able to submit written comments anytime on the city’s website or via email, just like they could while in-person comments were barred.