Residents hoping to speak on the Howard Hall issue were frustrated recently when a city council meeting went until nearly 10 p.m. Those who took public transportation had to leave an hour before, and those who had not yet spoken were asked to return in two weeks.
Who schedules public hearings? How are hearings scheduled?
“There are many requirements and variables,” says City of Salem’s Mike Gotterba. Certain decisions, by state statute, the city’s code, or other laws, require a public hearing. Sometimes the council will direct a hearing to be held on a certain date. At other times, staff will select the date based on given deadlines or the current hearing schedule.
“Prior to every Council meeting,” Gotterba says, “city staff reviews the schedule of upcoming meeting and hearings. At that time, city departments can propose dates for required hearings or other hearings to receive input on matters of wide concern.”
Thought is given to the schedules of attending citizens, Gotterba says. Council meetings begin at 6:30 “and public hearings are scheduled to begin by 7:30 p.m. Other business is delayed so that hearings take place as early in the agenda as possible. The transit schedule is one of the reasons that Council meetings must end by 10 p.m.”
Council must take specific action to extend the meeting beyond 10 p.m. to discuss remaining agenda items.
Sometimes several issues are time-sensitive and need to be addressed at the same meeting. Gotterba says the city does its best “to manage this, but these meetings can be longer than others depending on the number of people who wish to testify during a public hearing, and the length of the City Council’s deliberation.”