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New City Council Schedule For Citizens With Something To Say

If there's an issue you're dying to bring up with the Charlotte City Council, tonight's your chance. The council recently changed its meeting schedule to offer just one public comment forum a month rather than the two it previously allowed. The Citizen's Forum at council meetings is a sort of public comment grab bag. Anybody can sign up to tell city leaders what's on their mind. Each speaker gets three minutes. Mayor Anthony Foxx keeps a close eye on the timer. Property rights, personal freedoms, street signs, potholes, utility projects - even conspiracy theories - show up during these open microphone forums traditionally held on the first and fourth Monday of the month. Now the city council has decided to have just one citizen's forum - on the fourth Monday and limit the number of participants to 15. City manager Curt Walton says these forums drew an average of just eight speakers last year. An unlimited number of people will still be allowed to comment on specific agenda items as they come up during council meetings. Michael Zytkow says that's not enough: "This allows the city council and mayor to essentially have full control over the conversation," said Zytkow during a meeting last month when council members discussed the new meeting schedule. "What about issues that are not on the agenda? The Citizen's Forum gave us a place to speak on any matter that concerns us as citizens!" The City Council adopted the new meeting schedule in a vote of 7 to 2. Mayor Foxx said the change will eliminate one full council meeting from the calendar each month. "We're trying to figure out how to do justice to the community by providing the maximum access that we can, while also respecting the fact that people are putting an awful lot of time in as it is and try to give them a way of doing that that allows them to have a life and to spend time with their families," says Foxx. The City Council will no longer meet on the first Monday of the month. Zoning meetings stay on the 3rd Monday. Council briefings on the 2nd and 4th Mondays will start an hour earlier at 4 p.m. Only one Citizen's Forum will be offered - at 6:30 on the 4th Monday.