Lawrence city commissioners vote to no longer broadcast public comment because of ‘performative’ public

Share this post or save for later

The Lawrence City Commission voted 3-1 Tuesday to no longer broadcast the general public comment period and to move it to the very end of each meeting because of how some people have chosen to use the time. 

“I guess my concern is when people are using public comment to be performative, not to actually talk to us. And that’s what I think the purpose of public comment is, is to talk to us,” Commissioner Brad Finkeldei said.

The commission last month approved several changes to procedures, including moving the general public comment period to the second-to-last agenda item and not broadcasting it live, but maintaining a recording. However, live broadcasts of public comment have continued.

City staff members determined that they were unable to meet all three objectives — to stop broadcasting public comment, maintain a recording of it and hold it near the end of meetings but not at the very end. City Clerk Sherri Riedemann on Tuesday explained the technological challenges that prevented the city from doing all three.

Commissioner Lisa Larsen said she thought the commission should keep public comment where it was, near the end of meetings, and continue broadcasting it.

Four members of the public spoke to the commission about the issue.

Chris Flowers

Chris Flowers asked commissioners what they were trying to accomplish by no longer broadcasting public comment. He noted that the city staff recommendation didn’t even include the option to keep things as they were and continue broadcasting public comment.

Finkeldei’s comment about people using the time to be “performative” was in response to Flowers’ question.

Flowers also said that “It’s about transparency and letting citizens know what other citizens find important.”

Commissioner Amber Sellers said she didn’t think there needed to be a broadcast and that the meeting minutes could reflect the “high level” topics that community members spoke about.

Sellers said the commission had previously agreed to extend meetings past 11 p.m. if necessary to accommodate general public comment, and that Tuesday’s vote was a commitment to do that.

The commission voted 3-1 to approve a resolution to move public comment to the ends of meetings with Mayor Bart Littlejohn, Finkeldei and Sellers in favor and Larsen opposed. Vice Mayor Mike Dever was absent.

Resolutions typically come back before the commission for a second reading on a consent agenda during the next meeting after they give their initial approval.

It was not clear Tuesday whether the city will continue to make audio-video recordings of general public comment periods available.

The commission also takes a formal vote to adjourn at the end of its meetings. Adjournment is listed as part of each public meeting agenda. It was unclear Tuesday whether the vote to adjourn would be available to members of the public who are viewing meetings remotely going forward.

If our local journalism matters to you, please help us keep doing this work.
Don’t miss a beat … Click here to sign up for our email newsletters

Click here to learn more about our newsletters first

Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

Latest Lawrence news:


Previous Article

Lawrence City Commission approves boundaries for downtown transit station

Next Article

Kobach, Schwab pursue alleged signature forgeries on No Labels party petitions