Time to Reform the Public Speaker Process at City Council Meetings

Except for the final passage of the four measures in the wee hours of the morning—at about 3:30 a.m.—the January 22 City Council hearing on strengthening the OPD did no service to Oakland.

As is too often the case when the Council hears contentious issues, the arduous process operated as a war of attrition between those speakers able to stay practically until dawn, and those who had to go home on BART before its midnight closing.

Those who attended the meeting or watched it on KTOP, found it difficult to remember that the purpose of Council hearings is to help the Council make the best decisions for the residents of Oakland.  Instead, we were treated to the spectacle of hundreds of speaker-card holders clogging the system with repetitive messages, AND not providing any information to help the decision process. Council’s actions in the past at similar marathon sessions have given the impression to participants that public policy objectives can be achieved by rallying large numbers of vociferous speakers to monopolize the hearing process. This is no way to set policy.