“It is not a courtroom,” said Donovan. “I disagree with your analogy.”

“No, it’s not a courtroom, but we should have discourse in a civil manner,” said the council president.

Council member Joe Davis, who was at the meeting but not on the committee, indicated steps are being taken to create a citizen's committee that will look into ways for council to conduct its business within a two-hour meeting.

Davis acknowledged sign-in sheets and continuing three-minute limits on people speaking may not be the solution to improving public discourse during council meetings.

“There has to be a better way,” said Davis.

Signing in

Donovan objected to people having to write down their names to address council. He said it’s intimidating. “I do not like it. It holds people back. You’re making a mistake.”

Guridy said signing in to speak works well at Allentown School Board meetings.

He said doing so helps to keep meetings more orderly.

Guridy also said people who don’t sign in will not be excluded from speaking at council meetings.

“Then why have the sign-in in the first place?” countered Donovan.

Guridy said he is not married to the idea of asking people to sign-in, which he added was not his idea.

Three-minute rule

City Council does not intend to change its rule allowing members of the public to speak for three minutes and those representing organizations to speak for five.

It is a rule not uniformly enforced, especially when people ask questions of council and the administration, which can spur lengthy discussions.

Resident Glenn Hunsicker asked if the three-minute limit to speak applies to committee meetings as well as full council meetings. Guridy said it does.

(Monday’s committee meeting was an exception. Rather than council members sitting behind the dais in City Council chambers, they shared the conference room table with members of the public, which allowed for a more casual conversation. )

Guridy told Hunsicker the three-minute limit also applies to Power Point presentations “for the public.”

Fegley objected to most residents only getting three minutes to speak when they stand to address issues at council meetings and because they don’t get their questions answered.

Said Fegley: “If there is significant, important information that needs to be shared, if it takes 20 minutes or 30 minutes, we need to make time for that.”

Donovan noted that in the past couple of years “policies have been presented that are fairly complex. The group in favor of the policy often will have a significant amount of time to present their case.”

But he said people on the other side of the issue have questions, but don’t necessarily get the opportunity to examine the data or have a formal process for more give-and-take about the data to get answers. “That’s created a frustration.”

Guridy vs. Fegley

Guridy said some people disagree with a point “and they keep harping on it and harping on it.

“Some people want to ask a question about every sentence on any given topic,” he said.