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Acting mayor wants to hear from residents

Crestwood residents will have increased opportunities to address the Board of Aldermen, according to Acting Mayor Richard Breeding.

Besides public hearings, residents have had two opportunities to address city officials during Board of Aldermen meetings: a public comment period near the beginning of the meeting and a public comment period near the end of the meeting.

However, the public comment period near the beginning of the meeting has been for people to speak about items not on the agenda for that particular meeting.

In response to a suggestion by Ward 2 Alderman Gary Vincent, Breeding said he would allow people to address city officials on non-agenda items during the first public comment period. The acting mayor also said he would be willing to allow people to speak on other items aldermen are considering in a format similar to a public hearing.

Vincent recalled that during the Feb. 10 meeting, aldermen voted to purchase a used fire truck for $220,000 from the Cottleville Fire Protection District. A representative of the city's Fire Board and several firefighters wanted to address the board in support of the purchase before the board voted, but were unable to do so at the first public comment period because the matter was on the agenda, Vincent said.

"... It wasn't a public hearing and there was a gentleman from the Fire Board and several firemen who were out in the audience, and the gentleman from the Fire Board came up and spoke afterward (during the second public comment period),'' the Ward 2 Alderman said Feb. 24. "It just seems to me the way that we handle our public comment now we let people who talk about things that aren't on the agenda talk and we let people who come up and speak who have items on the agenda that are public hearings, but if you have an item on the agenda that's not a public hearing, you have to wait until the meeting's over and it's probably been voted on. So you really don't have a voice at all. So you have a bigger voice if you have something that's not even on the agenda.

"It doesn't really make sense to me to keep those people from coming up and saying their piece either before the meeting with the public comment and my recommendation would be that you include items that aren't on the agenda or items that are on the agenda not subject to a public hearing and then people come up and they have something to talk about. That's the whole idea of having public comment, then they can come up and say something while it's still relevant,'' Vincent added.

Ward 3 Alderman "Bernie'' Alexander later said, "... I totally agree with Alderman Vincent's recommendation. I made that recommendation to this board following the vote on the Mills Properties because we had an audience full of people and they couldn't speak because it was not a public hearing and I thought it was an abomination to their right. Although if we get an issue that is very, very controversial, we may have to say you are limited to three minutes so we're not here all night.

"But I think people should have the right to make a comment and sometimes I prefer that it be with the issue as we're debating it because our debate may — our debate may trigger a question for them or a comment by them as opposed to putting it in the front of the agenda before we even start debating the issue. So I just wanted to add my agreement to Alderman Vincent's proposal,'' Alexander added.

Breeding said he wanted some clarification. "So can we get that clarified now? You're saying that anyone can come up and address the board during a debate or before?'' he asked.

Vincent later said, "... What Alderman Alexander is saying is just conduct them all like they're a public hearing. After the board conducts their — and that may be the appropriate way to handle it — my concern was that they get some time. I'm not sure if you want to make everything a public hearing because that gets a little more involved. I don't know, but I think it's important that they do get some opportunity to come up and say something. You can regulate it a little more at the beginning of the meeting if that's the desire of the board, but I just think if those people show up on issue and they're not asked to come up, then they don't get their say and they kind of go home frustrated and it doesn't reflect good on the city, in my opinion. So I really don't care one way or another ...''

Breeding said, "I am willing to take a motion that we move that the residents can address the board on topics that we debate.''

Vincent said, "The only thing I would say is the mayor usually has some control over the agenda. As long as it's on there someplace, that's all I care about and that they get a chance ... My opinion would be to let the mayor have the say in whatever way the mayor thinks is appropriate and then we'll see how that kind of works out and if it's not working out, the board can change their minds a few months down the road.''

Breeding said, "Why don't we do this? Let's try it that way ... Any meeting I run — just for the public's information, what we'll do is we'll take those both into consideration and we'll put them in there so at the beginning it's public comment. When we talk about, for example ... the ordinance on the budget (a budget revision ordinance the board had approved earlier), we'll allow public comment. I've always been in favor of that because maybe there's someone with expertise in that field who is not represented on this board by that certain expertise.''

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