Council sets time limit for university comments
University of Delaware administration and student body representatives who wish to speak during city council meetings are now capped at five minutes each.
The change came during an organizational meeting April 21 after District 3 Councilwoman Jen Wallace, Mayor Polly Sierer and incumbent councilmen Luke Chapman and Stu Markham took their oaths of office for winning the April 12 election.
Since 2013, members of the public who speak during the public comment portion at council meetings, as well as on an agenda items, have been limited to three minutes each with the opportunity for other people to cede them additional time if necessary. Before that, public comment was set at five minutes per person.
Council reduced the public’s time in order to streamline lengthy meetings and last week, Wallace suggested it limit the university – which previously had no time limit – as well. She recommended five minutes per speaker.
“With the understanding that any council member could make the suggestion to extend the time if they wanted to do that,” she said.
Councilwoman Marge Hadden, who works at the university, felt the time limit was appropriate.
“I don’t have a problem with that,” she said. “Five minutes is a lot of time to fill up.”
Councilman Todd Ruckle, however, said that if the university is limited, elected officials should be too.
“It’s kind of like we’re putting a limit on one over the other,” he said. “If we’re going to do it, we have to be equal.”
The board ultimately decided not to restrict elected officials and instead voted unanimously to cap university administration and student body representatives at five minutes each. Council also limited public presenta- tions, which typically occur at the beginning of the meeting and before public comment, to 15 minutes.
“I like the idea of setting a guideline, if you will, for people to aim for,” Chapman said.
Councilman Mark Morehead suggested they also open public presentations up to public comment in order to give residents the ability to ask questions. The board voted 6 to 1 to do so and limit each speaker to one minute, with Ruckle as the opposing vote.