Being able to make your voice heard by local government officials is important, but it can sometimes be marred by complications of the bureaucratic process.
One way you can get elected officials to listen in NKY is by attending a local government meeting. However, depending on the municipality, there are only certain meetings where public comments can be made.
Some local governments meet multiple times a month to discuss local issues, and while all are open to the public, they may not all be open for public comment.
Those city councils or commissions with more than one monthly meeting will typically have a caucus meeting and a legislative or business meeting, although these are sometimes called by different names. (We didn’t say understanding these processes would be easy.)
So, what is the difference?
To put it simply, caucus meetings are for discussion, legislative meetings are for voting.
However, this can be a bit confusing because, during the caucus meetings, the public is not allowed to make comments. The meetings are more a time for officials to discuss proposed legislation that is set to be passed during legislative meetings.
“No votes are taken, and that’s where the commission just basically hears presentations from staff, about things we would like to take before them… is just sort of the initial, here’s what’s going on, here’s what’s going to be our priority in the next meeting,” Covington Communications Manager Dan Hassert said about caucus meetings.
After viewing these presentations, Hassert said, the commission will then discuss whether to put the issues on the agenda for the legislative meeting.
Various actions happen in a legislative meeting, including the voting on and passing of ordinances and resolutions. There also may be the first reading of an ordinance, which is not a vote, but a public notice of what will be voted on at the next legislative meeting. The public will then have time to give comment on the ordinance before the second reading and subsequent vote.
Who has caucus meetings?
So, it may seem a bit puzzling, but not all cities have these different types of meetings.
Having separate caucus and legislative/business meetings is typically reserved for larger municipalities. Places like Florence, Newport, Covington and Fort Wright have these separate meetings, while smaller cities like Alexandria and Bromley do not.
The idea is that these larger cities have more business to handle and it would be too much to discuss in one meeting with voting and public comment.
However, this is not a hard and fast rule; some smaller cities like Ludlow have both caucus and legislative meetings and some larger cities like Fort Thomas only meet once a month.
Okay, so how do citizens know when/where to go?
With all the different processes, it can be hard to know how to get your thoughts to your elected officials.
Your best bet is to check your city’s website. There they will have posted schedules of future meetings with indications of what type of meeting is held and when. Public notices for special meetings and public hearings can be found on LINK nky’s website and will also be physically posted somewhere at the city’s municipal building.
Rules for public comment i.e., how long the comment period is, how long individuals can talk and more, should also be available online.
If you aren’t able to make a meeting or you feel like your issue needs to be addressed individually, commissioners and council members will often have their contact information available online.
“Local government is the most accessible government. It’s where the proverbial rubber meets the road and they’re always happy to talk to residents. They see them at bars, they see them at lunch, coffee shops, events, ribbon cuttings, everywhere and they’re always talking to people,” said Hassert.