Tupelo Council to allow citizens to speak more often

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By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Citizens and owners of businesses or property in Tupelo can now discuss a specific issue at multiple City Council meetings, changing a three-year policy that required a 12-month waiting period.
Before the new council amended an ordinance this week, citizens and others connected with the city had only one chance each year to discuss a specific topic at a council meeting. If a new issue developed related to the matter, the person would have to wait 365 days to discuss it again before the council.
“If someone wants to speak to the council, they should be able to speak multiple times a year,” said Ward 3 councilman Jim Newell, who led the change.
A city ordinance allows citizens to request a “citizen hearing” to discuss something at a City Council meeting. This provides citizens placed on the agenda up to five minutes to speak.
Before 2010, the year-long waiting period wasn’t a part of the ordinance. Council President Nettie Davis, serving her fourth term on the council, said she didn’t recall any abuse of the opportunity for citizens to speak directly to Tupelo elected officials.
“We’ve had very few people who have continually come in here,” Davis said. “We usually use our discretion to give them extra time (to speak).”
The council also changed the day people have to turn in a request for an appearance to speak before them, moving the deadline from Tuesday to the Thursday before the next meeting.
Every other deadline to appear on the council agenda has been the Thursday before the meeting.
robbie.ward@journalinc.com