Nashville’s Metro Council meetings will see a major change beginning Tuesday July 16 thanks to a significant rule shift impacting public comments at the meeting.
According to reports, “An open comment portion will be added near the beginning of the meeting to allow people to talk about issues even if they’re not on the council’s agenda.”
Previously, it wasn’t as easy to address the council. The main restriction was that comments were only taken for items that were on the agenda and that were required, by law, to include a public hearing, such as land re-zonings and the annual budget discussion.
The open comment period will now begin the council meetings held on the third Tuesdays of each month. There will be a two minute time limit for individuals who sign up to speak.
The change is linked in large part to protests in council chambers after the fatal shooting of Jocques Clemmons by Nashville police Officer Joshua Lippert back in February of 2017.
If what happened Tuesday night at the Metro Council has ever happened before, it was beyond the recent memory of anyone in the chamber.
Calling for justice for Jocques Clemmons, the black man shot and killed by a white Metro police officer, Josh Lippert, almost two weeks ago, demonstrators marched to the Metro Courthouse, seized control of the meeting and got results. Ultimately, they were granted 20 minutes, uninterrupted, to air their views on the shooting and make clear their demands about how the city should respond.
It all began with a resolution exempting East Nashville vegetarian restaurant Wild Cow from the minimum distance requirements for obtaining a beer permit — a common item on the council’s agenda but one that requires a public hearing. When the time came for opponents of the bill to speak, Rhiana Anthony came to the podium but Vice Mayor David Briley attempted to move on, explaining that he hadn’t seen her raise her hand to identify herself as someone who wanted to speak against the bill. By then, though, Anthony had a microphone.
There is more on the current rule change here.
Mayor David Briley — who was vice mayor at the time — allowed some residents to speak that night, and he then began a series of meetings to create the new comment format.
Those wishing to address the council must register in advance and abide by a lengthy list of guidelines. Registration is available online here, by calling 615-862-6780, or by visiting the council office at city hall.