Why it’s difficult to voice opinions at Youngstown Council meetings

Anyone who wants to address Youngstown City Council at its regular meetings is required to fill out a form one week in advance

Youngstown City Council heard four department's budget requests on Monday night. The Civil Services, Finance, Law and Health departments all presented the budget requests for 2016.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – At last week’s Youngstown City Council meeting, some community members were not allowed to speak because of a rule that several people think should be modified.

Anyone who wants to address council at its regular meetings is required to fill out a form one week in advance.

Last Wednesday, residents of an east side neighborhood showed up at the council meeting. They wanted to speak against a zone change that would make their neighborhood industrial instead of residential, which would force them to move.

Council would not let them speak because they didn’t give one week’s notice.

“We should have been able to have a voice today and at every meeting because this is our homes,” said Natarasha Gillam, who would be forced to leave her home after spending money on a new roof and windows.

Councilman Mike Ray says that transparency is important to them, so he would be willing to have a conversation about changing the rule.

Others agree that asking for notice one week in advance is too long, and they would be willing to change it.

“I do definitely think we should sit down and try to modify it. Maybe look at different municipalities, different cities to see how they’re doing it,” said Councilwoman Basia Adamczak.

Commissioners in Mahoning County, Mill Creek MetroParks and Niles do not require notification. People can just show up and speak.

The Youngstown School Board and Warren City Council require a form to be filled out, but only 15 minutes before the start of the meeting.

“In order to inform the public, and let them know what’s going on and give them a chance to give their feedback, I do think it should be looked at,” said Councilman Julius Oliver.

Youngstown City Council’s agenda is made public on the Friday before each Wednesday’s meeting. With the one week notice requirement, the public is not given the opportunity to speak about what will be on that week’s agenda.

“It really does not allow an opportunity for residents to truly speak before council as a whole on the matters that’s being voted at hand,” Adamczak said.

Councilwoman Lauren McNally agrees.

“Given the fact we sometimes have late legislation, I would agree that one week is too long of a time period. Some type of notice, though, is required,” she said.

The council members who said they would consider changing the rule gave no indication of what kind of change they would support – whether people would still have a sign up deadline, or if they would just be allowed to show up and speak.

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