One of the most effective way to get heard by Council is to comment at a public forum or hearing. Councilors receive a lot of email, and their written packets are often hundreds of pages long. But twice a month, they are a captive audience at these forums. And Council listens… often the number of people speaking for or against a particular issue at a forum can have major impact.
Commenting to Council is easier than it sounds. You don’t have to be eloquent or polished. You don’t have to have a brilliant technical argument or a detailed proposal. Council needs to hear the challenges that you face, as a resident of Eugene, and that you want them identify and direct staff to implement solutions. Simply showing up, and saying that you are having trouble finding housing that meets your needs and budget, or wish you could help provide housing to others, or are concerned about the lack of action on housing affordability is enough.
To Comment Before Council:
Before the Meeting
- Pick your date. Council has public forums on the second and fourth Mondays of most months. They start at 7:30, located at Harris Hall, 125 East 8th Avenue. The "Schedule at a Glance" shows scheduled meetings for the year. A topic related to housing options or transportation choice does not have to be on the agenda for you to comment on it at a public forum.
- Find some friends. It can be more fun to go in a group with a few other people who also care about the issue, but you don’t have to be part of a big organized thing to comment before Council. And if you can’t find some friends, but just go on your own, that’s great too. A giant group who all goes at once to comment can be effective, but it is also effective to be the one or two people with a different message on a particular night, particularly if it is part of a steady stream of different individuals with the same concerns.
- Make your notes, and practice. Start with your name, and your ward/Councilor. Summarize your key point in one sentence—why you are there or what you want them to do. “My name is ____, I live in Ward ____, and I am concerned about the lack of housing choice in Eugene.” Follow up with any support you wish to provide. Personal stories about how you have been affected are good. Read through your comments once or twice, and make sure that they can be read in less than three minutes. Be prepared to stop halfway through; if it is a particularly heavy comment night, they may reduce the amount of time for each person to speak.
At the Meeting
- Show up early. While the meeting starts at 7:30, sign-up for the public forum starts at 7:00. You will be called in the order that you sign up, so if it is a particularly heavy comment night and you arrive at 7:00 to sign up, you will be earlier on the list (and won’t have to stay as late.)
- Put your name on the list. Near the door to Harris Hall, there will be a staffed table with small green card. The sheet will ask for your name and address, and a brief statement of what you are commenting on… “Housing affordability,” “Missing Middle Housing,” or “Walkability.” Fill out your green card, and hand it to the person staffing the table; they will number it in the order they receive them.
- Wait for the meeting to start. Talk to your friends, meet some new folks, or read the news.
- When called, you’ll have an option to sit or stand at a podium. There will be a system of green/yellow/red lights. Speak into the microphone, remain respectful, start with your name and ward, and go from there. Most times you will have three minutes, but in the event of a particularly heavy comment night, that may be shorted to two minutes or less. When the light turns yellow, you’ll have enough time to finish your sentence. When the light turns red, a buzzer will sound, and it is time to say “Thank you” and step back.
- You are done! Repeat visits can be helpful, but even just going once can make a big impact.
Difference between a Forum, Meeting, Hearing and Work Session.
Council has several different types of meetings, some of which allow for public comments and some of which don’t. A brief summary is below.
- Council Public Forum: These occur at the beginning of the regular city council meetings, usually on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month at 7:30. This is the opportunity for individuals to share with Council whatever is on their minds.
- Council Public Hearing: These occur most often on the 3rd Monday of the month at 7:30, but the can occur at other times as well, including being embedded in regular meetings. At Public Hearings, Council accepts public comments, but ONLY on the topic of the hearing.
- Council Work Session: Work sessions most often occur on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month at 5:30 (immediately preceding the regular meeting and/or forum) and on Wednesdays (except the first Wednesday of the month) at noon. They are a chance for Councilors to get a more in-depth discussion of particular topics, though they can bring up shorter items or pass motions at work sessions. Public comment opportunities are not provided at work sessions.
- Council Meeting: The Council “Regular Meetings” occur on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of most months. They open with a Public Forum, and then move onto other business, such as passing ordinances, etc. However, some calendars will refer to any City Council gatherings (including work sessions and public hearings) as “Meetings” so be careful to check that the meeting is a regular meeting including a public forum before showing up with your carefully prepared comments.