Boulder to test phone-in public comments at upcoming City Council meeting

Daily Camera (Boulder): Attendees at the Boulder City Council’s June 5 meeting will be the first to hear from fellow citizens in absentia, as the city conducts a test of a new remote participation effort that could become a model for future civic engagement.

For the first time, open comment will be allowed via telephone. Three callers will be patched into the chambers for their allowed three minutes. If successful, the city hopes to expand the program, a move that will hopefully result in more participation from a wider audience.

The idea was introduced by Councilwoman Jill Adler Grano during a January council retreat. Elected just two months before, she “quickly realized how impactful open comment is” in bringing issues to the attention of the governing body.

“We get hundreds of emails and we just can’t get to them all,” she said. “Hearing someone’s voice and what their concerns are when all nine of us are together is very powerful.”

Grano said there are three groups she hears from consistently that can’t make the Tuesday evening meetings: families with children, senior citizens and business owners. It is her hope that the tool will bring more people from those communities into the legislative process.

There is no target date for a wider rollout, said city engagement manager Sarah Huntley. That decision will depend on how the pilot goes. Boulder revised its open comment process last year, limiting speakers to 15 in number and selecting them via lottery.

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