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January 17--  The Vidalia City Council is considering a change to its policy regarding how citizens may speak at its meetings.

Under current policy there's an item on the agenda for public discussion and any citizen may come forward with questions, comments and concerns about city operations and issues in Vidalia.

The proposed change would require a citizen to file a form identifying the topic of discussion on the Thursday preceding the Monday night council meeting.

City council member Kailey Dees says it's not an attempt to cut off debate, but rather to help the council more adequately address the needs of city residents,"It gives us an opportunity as a council to try to represent our citizens and try to answer their questions and concerns before the council meeting.  The other good thing is accountability on our part.  If we don't do our job before the Monday council meeting, bring it forth and we'll see if there's anything we can do at that point.  We are also setting into place that if it is not addressed and we have not answered the question, then it has to go to a committee for follow-up."

Former Vidalia City Councilman Kay Stafford regularly takes advantage of the public comment part of the meetings to ask questions and voice concerns, "I'm all for open transparent government.  I think the more questions asked in a public forum, the more transparency we have.  I don't have a problem with a form as long as it is simplified by using email.  If I were sitting on the council, I suppose I'd like to have a heads-up about what's coming my way.  My purpose in standing up and asking questions is seeking to understand and know the background on certain questions, but I have no problems with a form."

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Dees advises,"Just because you have a question doesn't mean you have to wait for a council meeting.  If there's something you hear that you don't like, reach out to your council person."

The council is expected to take action on the new policy at its meeting in February.

For staff use only.