Aurora lawmakers keep public comment portion of regular meetings

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AURORA | Aurora City Council meetings will not change structure to feature an hour-long public forum and eliminate the current public invited to be heard section at the beginning of meetings. 

A proposal, which was backed by Councilwoman Nicole Johnston, didn’t earn enough council support to be implemented. It would have set up a televised public forum to start at 6 p.m., before city council meetings, and end by the regular city council meeting start time, 7:30 p.m.

Denver operates on a similar model. Two times each month the city hosts a 30-minute public comment section. Each speaker gets three minutes to speak on any topic that is not scheduled for a public hearing. 

Some members feared that the move would curtail public input by putting a hard end time on public comment. Currently, public comment allows everybody who signs up to speak three minutes to address the council. In recent months, public invited to be heard has sometimes erupted in protests.

Other members, like Councilwoman Allison Hiltz, said they’d support a public forum prior to the meeting that could stretch into the meeting’s regular public invited to be heard. 

“I welcome the opportunity to infuse other opportunities,” said Councilwoman Crystal Murillo, who voted down the proposal. 

Many council members said they suspect that public invited to be heard has stretched on so long in recent meetings is because there are few opportunities otherwise to speak publicly.

Johnston, who devised a special public hearing for the Elijah McClain case earlier this month, said even with the defeated public forum proposal she’d still like to create more public hearings for Aurora residents.

Councilman Juan Marcano, who before being elected this year regularly addressed the council said being a public speaker at meetings “is not a good experience.”

He encouraged the council to focus on some of the issues that are driving people to address the council.