Both the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County have policies that limit citizens’ ability to address these bodies on timely matters. Each body requires, effectively, at least one week notice to appear on the public agenda. That’s the part of the meeting where citizens can speak about any topic, not just those matters that are being considered that day.
Here’s an example of how these restrictive deadlines work against citizens. On December 2, John Todd and I spoke at the Wichita city council meeting, as part of a public hearing. As shown in the posts Wichita TIF Public Hearing Was Bait and Switch and Randy Brown: Reopen Downtown Wichita Arena TIF Public Hearing, the public hearing was defective. Further, there’s a time factor involved, in that the city council set in motion a process that must be resolved within 30 days. With the upcoming holidays, time is tight.
So John called the Wichita city clerk, but we can’t get on the agenda for the next city council meeting. By the time we can get on the agenda, it’s nearly too late for the council to take the action we’d like to ask of them.
A reasonable policy is this: When something happens in a meeting one week, there should be time for citizens to get on the public agenda for the next meeting.
The policy of the Wichita City Council is “Members of the public desiring to present matters to the council on the public agenda must submit a request in writing to the office of the city manager prior to twelve noon on the Tuesday preceding the council meeting.”
For Sedgwick County, I wasn’t able to find a policy on its website, but while watching today’s commission meeting on television, chairman Winters asked the public to contact the county manager’s office “at least a week or ten days before our meeting” if they wanted to address the commission.
Note: when an item is on the agenda, citizens usually get to speak about the item. The public agenda is where citizens can speak about items that may or may not be on the meeting’s agenda.