OPEN MEETINGS -- A member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors says her proposal to open meetings of committees of the Board to public comments on matters not on the committee agenda needn't lead to chaos, reports Joe Eskenazy in SF Weekly.

Earlier this week, we reported on how the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force chided Supervisor Chris Daly for forbidding a man to speak at a Rules Committee meeting. Not long thereafter, Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, at the behest of the task force, introduced a proposed change to the Board of Supervisors' rules, that would create
"general comments" periods during committee meetings, so people like
the gent silenced by Daly would have an opportunity to speak—even
about legislation that wasn't pending.


At first blush, this
appears ominous. Public comment during full Board of Supervisors
meetings has no topical limitations; folks can wander up to the
microphone and ramble on about anything they wish. The introduction of
general public commentary during committee meetings conjures up
horrifying mental imagery of men with sandals and socks, six newspapers
shoved into their pockets, and bags full of other bags opining on any
and all matters they see fit, late into the night.


"Well, the board meetings are difficult
because people can talk about anything under the sun—anything they
want," admits Alioto-Pier. "Sometimes, it's pretty tough to sit
through." She insists, however, that her proposal will not deliver a
dose of the same to committee meetings. 




The important difference, she says, is that comments during committee
meetings will have to be specific to the jurisdiction of that meeting
-- land-use, rules, public safety, budget matters, etc.


So
if a speaker goes off on "sunbathing at the beach" (Alioto-Pier's
example of inanity during public comment), the committee chair will
have the ability to politely cut him or her off. Of course, a creative
waster of the city's time could somehow connect his or her tale of
alien abduction, masonic conspiracies, or other such flights of fancy
to San Francisco land-use or budgetary matters—but Alioto-Pier
thinks the benefits of her proposal outweigh the detriments.


Her
proposed amendment will get its hearing during Rules Committee in the
first week of October before passing on to the full board. Amendments
to Board rules require a supermajority of eight votes to pass -- though
Alioto-Pier told SF Weekly "I don't know why anyone wouldn't support this."