Summerville Town Council is scheduled to tinker with its public comments policy at Wednesday’s meeting, but at least one councilman thinks the policy should be left as is.
The proposed change, up for final reading Wednesday, would require people who don’t live or own property here to register on the Monday prior to a council meeting if they wish to speak.
Residents would have to sign up to speak before the meeting began.
Councilman Aaron Brown spoke during Monday’s finance committee meeting and at a previous council workshop to explain his opposition to the change.
Allowing people to address council is “one of the most important things we do,” he said.
It gives council members a chance to hear what’s on the minds of constituents as well as to get ideas from the world outside Summerville, he said.
He said he didn’t agree with the reasoning of Mayor Bill Collins, that allowing only residents to speak would make annexation more attractive to contiguous property owners.
Instead, a friendly open atmosphere would be more likely to encourage people to annex, he said.
The town began talking about limiting public comments after two controversial ordinances, the illegal immigration housing ordinance and the no-smoking ordinance, brought strangers to town by the droves to give their two cents.
An ordinance to be discussed Wednesday that would allow for beer and wine consumption at special events outdoors is likely to also draw a crowd.
There are two types of public comment periods. Council holds an open comment period at the beginning of each council meeting, during which people can speak about any topic they wish.
There are also public hearings, which allow for comments about particular ordinances being voted upon.
Brown said he’s not bothered that out-of-town activists might show up to promote a viewpoint during public comments.
“What is an activist but somebody who disagrees with you?” he said.
Hearing dissenting opinions helps the town make better decisions, he said.