Public Testimony is Too Early

The 5:00pm start time for public testimony is a barrier to participation by working people.

The board can reduce that barrier by shifting the whole meeting agenda thirty minutes later. The meeting would start thirty minutes later, public testimony would start thirty minutes later, and the meeting would end thirty minutes later. The Board would have to weigh the negative impact of the change on the internal stakeholders against the positive impact for members of the public.

The board could also resolve the problem by restoring Petitions and Delegations. It was not that long ago that there were two opportunities for the Board to hear from the public at each board meeting. One was public testimony when people could address motions before the Board. The other was Petitions and Delegations when people could speak on any topic. When the Board consolidated the two speaking periods they promised that, if the change created negative impacts, the Board would restore the second session. Petitions and Delegations could come later in the meeting and provide working people with an opportunity to speak to the Board.

I'm sure there are other solutions possible. The Board needs to find one and apply it.


Anonymous said…
Am I the only one who thinks that this is the whole point? Make it impossible for the "public" to attend?
- SPS mom
Anonymous said…
Now that Holly F. is gone, maybe the staff won't roll its eyes quite so much at the public testimony. Of course we also need to work on the manners of the board. Hello, Harium, are yooooouuuu awaaaakkkkeeeeee? Hellloooo Michael...we know you've heard all this testimony a million times, but you, not us, decided you wanted to serve again. So suck it up and listen, even to the 'usual suspects.' And Sheri - less Boeing-management-face. More public-servant-interested-in-the-public-face would go a long, long way.

Anonymous said…
from Sharon Peaslee's website:

School Board Testimony Start Time

We're reconsidering the current 5:00pm start time for public testimony. If you think this is too early, or if you have been unable to speak because of this earlier start time please contact us at and let us know.
Anonymous said…
It would also be great if Sherry would quit with the:

a) scripted softball "okay I'm doing my token constituent duty" questions; and

b) self-congratulatory comments about KPIs and Benchmarks(!) I think she thinks she invented them.

c) DeBelle would stop lecturing in his sternest tone about how we all should essentially shut up and do what he says already.

unusual suspect
Mary G said…
I think it's great that they are reconsidering the start time. I'm going to email them and give them that feedback.
Stu said…
Here's what I just wrote:

Just wanted to weigh in on this. It's SO difficult for the majority of the general (re: working) public to get ANYWHERE in this city at exactly 5:00 that having the start time this early is tantamount to discouraging public input.

To be honest, I've gotten pretty jaded over the years, when it comes to the board meetings. Public testimony was shortened, we're not allowed to "address the board" so there's never a chance for any real exchange or response, and half the time some of the members look as if they could not be less interested in what the "public" has to say.

Perhaps the board could make the evenings go faster, maybe even allowing for more public interfacing, but not having people just read the powerpoints that are up on the screen word for word. It's an incredible waste of the only public hearing time to just read out loud what's right there. A synopsis would be fine and then there would be some time for questions/answers?

One other suggestion, since I'm writing. I would LOVE to see the board members "grow a pair" when staff/administration/whoever shows up without the necessary information. How many times are you going to allow someone to say "I'll have to look that up" or "I'll have to get back to you on that" before you say "ENOUGH!" If I came to my office meetings as unprepared as some of the staffers, I would have been fired long ago.

Back to the subject at hand . . . PLEASE move the public testimony later!

Stu said…
Am I the only one who thinks that this is the whole point? Make it impossible for the "public" to attend?
- SPS mom

Let's see . .

Don't allow speakers to address us directly: check.
Don't ever accept data from these people: check.
Shorten testimony times: check.
Move times to 5:00: check.
Don't look the public in the eye: check
Remember to pick up bread on the wa...oh, what were we talking about .. oh yeah, public engagement: check.
Ask the other members if we could move the meetings to 4:30 and hold them in a smaller place: check.
Hey, did I feed the cat . . oh wait, pay attention: check.
Nod your head: check.
Make sure we don't get all of the information we need, for an informed decision, from our staff: check.
Make decisions anyway: check.
Start raising money again: check.
Start the next pool, the one to see if we can find someone less qualified than a TFA kid to teach special ed: check.
Discuss giving Bob Vaughan a raise! (That guy has managed to now be ineffectual for longer than almost any other employee. I can't believe the public still thinks he's PRO advanced placement programs . . . tools!); check.
Talk about closing another West Seattle School just to mess with their heads; check.
Remember to schedule the reopening of the closed school a year later; check.
Discuss the plan to dangle Wilson in front of the APP North Community. Coordinate that discussion with the decision to split APP Elementary into 5 sections, divided among all regions and split by grade level. Remember to recommend having 1st grade at Rainier Beach, 2nd grade at Jane Addams, 3rd grade in West Seattle. See which communities can be displace for a year or two to accommodate the other grades: check.
Make sure . . oh wait . . is testimony over? Phew. Public engagement can be hard! OK, thank the people . . . remember to look sincere: "Thank you all for your testimony."
Anonymous said…
That's interesting because I saw last Wednesday that Holly Miller was allowed to address the board in response to Director Patu's question on an agenda item (DeBell said "only if Holly wants to!), yet some months back when Director Peaslee wanted further info on Chris Jackins' testimony, she was firmly rebuked by Director-for-life DeBell.

Charlie Mas said…
The Executive Committee has this on their agenda for Wednesday, September 12.
Charlie Mas said…
There is nothing - NOTHING - in the Board bylaws that precludes a Board member from asking a member of the community to address the Board during discussion.

Moreover, as observer pointed out, it happens all the time. When some group is giving the District a grant, a representative of that group often addresses the Board from the podium during the discussion. This person is not staff but a member of the public.

If there were a rule against members of the public addressing the Board from the podium during discussion of action items that rule should be enforced consistently.

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