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Branson Alderpersons vote to enable more effective public participation

At its June 11, 2024 meeting, the Branson Board of Aldermen approved amendments to Section 2-71 of the Branson Municipal Code (BMC). The staff report for this item said, “Mayor Milton requested, during the May 28, 2024 Regular Meeting, that this item be brought before the Board for consideration in an effort to reduce repetition in meeting processes and alderman Cooper was the second sponsor. This item is a proposed amendment to the procedures for regular agenda section of the Branson Municipal Code. The proposed changes also address getting the motion and second on the floor prior to hearing a staff report and brings this section more in line with current practice.”

 

The “current practice” refers to taking public comments on an Agenda Item immediately after the staff report and before giving the public the benefit and insight of the aldermen’s comments as required by Section 27-1 of the BMC. As currently written, it requires that the presiding officer state the issue before the Board, followed by a staff report, if appropriate, after which board members shall be allowed to present their positions and concerns if they so desire. The public then gets to comment on the issue. Then, board members have additional time to “present their positions and concerns and, if desired, to respond to statements expressed by interested members of the community.”

 

The proposed changes sought to change Section 27-1 to reflect the current practice of ignoring the requirement permitting board members to comment before taking public comments. Aldermen Lucas and LeBlanc said they favored the aldermen asking questions and making their preliminary comments before submitting the issue to the public for comment because it gave the public more insight and information to evaluate the need for and content of their comments effectively.

 

The vote was three to three, with aldermen Thomas’ Artie’ Lucas, Clay Cooper and alderwoman Ruth Denham voting “Yes” and aldermen Marshall Howden, Ralph LeBlanc and Glenn Schulz voting “No.” Mayor Larry Milton broke the tie with a “Yes” vote. Schulz said that while he agreed with most of the changes, he voted “No” for the final amended version of the bill because “… having the staff report before the motion and second to debate the item is beneficial for the aldermen and mayor.”

 

Because of the vote, Section 27-1 contains the following#1:

 

2-71. (1) The presiding officer shall state the issue before the Board. [I understand that this may be done by the City Clerk if requested by the presiding officer.]

 

2-71. (2) The presiding officer shall obtain a motion and a second before opening the floor for debate or discussion. Staff will then have an opportunity to present a brief and thorough report on an issue.

 

2-71. (3) Board members shall be allotted time to present their positions and concerns if they so desire.

 

2-71. (4)  Interested members of the community shall have an opportunity to express their positions on an item. Testimony or discussion by interested members of the community in support or opposition of an issue may be limited by the presiding officer when the discussion has become repetitive, and any alderman may request the same to the presiding officer. Additionally, the presiding officer may set a time limit for discussion and any alderman may request the same to the presiding officer.

 

2-71. (5) Board members shall be allotted time to present their positions and concerns and, if desired, to respond to statements expressed by interested members of the community.

 

#1 Amendments were made to this ordinance on the fly during the meeting on the evening of June 11, 2024. This writer has done his best to incorporate those amendments accurately, consistent with publishing deadlines.

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