The Hampton city council adopted changes this week to the public comments portion of meetings. The new rules closely resemble a previous way of allowing public comment before changes were made in 2018.
The new public comment rules provide up to three minutes per speaker at the beginning of council meetings where attendees can address any topic, for a total time period up to thirty minutes. The overall time limit may be extended at the discretion of the chair.
Additionally, meeting attendees may address each agenda item as they are presented for up to three minutes per speaker. A total of twelve minutes per agenda item will be provided.
The new system replaces a fifteen minute limit where the total time was divided by the number of speakers signed up. Newly sworn-in council member Mary Ann Mitcham was vocal that she did not want to see any form of division guaranteeing each speaker with three minutes.
The new system also brings back the ability for public comment on individual agenda items. This practice is unique to Hampton within Henry County.
Council member Henry Byrd highlighted the opening back up of public comments and individuals’ right to speak as his positive happening at the end of the meeting.
The new changes passed second reading by a 4-2 vote (council members Errol Mitchell and Willie Turner opposed; Mayor Hutchison absent).