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LIBA seeks clarification of city’s open mic policy – June 22, 2012

During a pre-council meeting on June 4, 2012, Councilman Gene Carroll complained that the Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA) was not complying with the city’s open microphone policy.

According to Councilman Carroll, LIBA representatives testified during the May open mic session regarding Community Learning Centers or CLCs, which allegedly violated the city’s policy that the public should not be allowed to testify on future agenda items. Carroll argued that LIBA knew that CLCs would be on a future agenda as an item included within the city budget.

LIBA would like to seek further clarification here because it is difficult to determine what Councilman Carroll wants or what the open microphone policy requires.  

LIBA thought by bringing up CLCs months in advance of the budget that we were responding to a previous complaint by Councilman Carroll at the close of last year’s budget. On August 22, 2011, Mr. Carroll complained that people “usually come late to the table and, as the saying goes, they are usually ‘a day late and a dollar short.’”

Now Mr. Carroll says we’ve come to “the table” too early with respect to CLCs, which could cost taxpayers more than $1 million, and he’s complaining because there’s the possibility that this may come up as a future agenda item.

We would appreciate further clarification on when the city council thinks is the appropriate time to address them with public concerns.  What is the window of time that the public is allowed some transparency?  What is the window of time that the public is allowed to let our voices be heard on issues that affect the amount of taxes we pay?

It is inappropriate to tell us – or any other member of the public – that we can only talk about the budget once a year for five minutes at the annual public hearing. We all know that most of the important decisions have already been made by then. In fact, Councilman Carroll said last year’s budget talks started in January, a full nine months before the budget’s publicized approval. Those meetings were not prominently displayed on public notice, so they must have taken place as they say “behind closed doors.”

 We respectfully request clarification as to when the city council deems it appropriate for the public to speak at open mic sessions on important items like a $150 million budget so we, and others in our community, will know the proper time to offer public input and not get unduly criticized for doing so.

In addition, in order to allow for more significant and meaningful community discussion regarding the city budget, we request the city return to the policy of releasing the budget in mid-June. However the city decides to reform this policy, rest assured Mr. Carroll, the business community will not be silenced.