IVGID board votes to limit public comment periods for meetings | SierraSun.com

IVGID board votes to limit public comment periods for meetings

Josh Staab
jstaab@sierrasun.com
IVGID Vice-Chairman Jim Hammerel is among trustees in favor of the recent vote to limit public comment at board meetings.
File photo |

What’s next

The IVGID Board next meets at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1, in a special retreat session at The Chateau at 955 Fairway Blvd. Visit yourtahoeplace.com/ivgid/board-of-trustees/meetings-and-agendas" target="_blank">Bold">yourtahoeplace.com/ivgid/board-of-trustees/meetings-and-agendas to learn more.

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The way Incline Village and Crystal Bay residents are allowed to offer public comment at IVGID board meetings will change the next time trustees meet.

In a 4-1 decision, Incline Village General Improvement District Board trustees voted Sept. 23 to limit public comment sessions to occur only at the beginning and end of each meeting. Previously, comment was taken at those times, in addition to each general business agenda item.

However, there will be an option to add public comment to any general business item — a decision likely to fall to the board’s discretion, said Kendra Wong, IVGID chairwoman.

Trustees based their decision on the apparent lack of effectiveness with which public comment periods have recently devolved.

IVGID legal representative Devon Reese noted that given the size of the board and the amount of business it covers, eliminating comment on agenda items falls more in line with boards of its size.

“With boards of this size, the board tend to take comments during the beginning and the end to save time,” Reese said. “With smaller boards, with less to cover, taking comment on each item may make more sense.”

Board Vice-Chairman Jim Hammerel, who recently welcomed a new child into his family, recommended testing a new way and “let it run its course and revisit it at the beginning of the year,” he said.

“I think it’s definitely worth testing,“ Hammerel said. “What we have right now is not helping this government stay and remain efficient.”

Trustee Bill Devine was against the motion. When it was felt that a member of the public was out of line during commenting periods, Wong handled it.

He worried the decision may be a knee jerk reaction to isolated cases.

“I believe it could work at the beginning and the end, but again, my sense is the core reason for doing it is the wrong reason,” Devine said.

Incline Village resident Phil Horan, coming off of his recent bid to be appointed to the open trustee position eventually filled by Matthew Dent, had mixed feeling about the motion, noting his experience serving as a board member with Washoe County Planning Commission, in addition to other board capacities in other counties.

He said the new format is worth testing, on the condition Wong believes she would be up to the task of managing some of the district’s more wily public commenters.

“The boards that I have served on have fortunately been much more efficient and have not had as much negativity as part of the process,” Horan said. “I’m a big believer of allowing public comment, but I think in this particular case, I am swayed to believe that we should give this a try and see if we can rely on Chairwoman Wong to allow public comment where it should be allowed, and see how it works because it can be revisited.”

While trustee Tim Callicrate believed it was the public’s right to “grill us on things, support or detract or what have you,” there needs to be a difference between a board meeting for the public and the public’s need for board meetings.

“I would like this more on a trial basis,” he said, adding that he felt it should be reassessed before June, possibly by the end of first quarter of 2016.

“As for a permanent, I would vote against it,” Callicrate added.

While Wong agreed with Hammerel’s recommendation, she worried revisiting it at the beginning of 2016 would be giving any change an injustice to assess its effectiveness.

“In reality, we only have three more general business meetings between now and then,” Wong said.

Wong recommended revisiting the motion’s effectiveness in June 2016.

In the meantime, Wong suggested the possibility of retooling scheduled meetings and formats to prioritize agenda items to allow for more comprehensive public comment periods.

“I’d love for us to brainstorm and examine other possible types of meetings that we could have,” Wong added.