One of the most impactful ways to make your voice heard is to do it face-to-face, in person, in public, on the record — in other words, by attending and speaking at local Council and Board meetings. Each group will have its own specific rules, but as a general guideline we’re quoting the Ventura City Council’s protocols [PDF] (which are used by the City of Oxnard as well):
- Prior to the meeting, or during the meeting prior to a matter being reached, persons wishing to address the Council should fill out a speaker card and submit it to the City Clerk. Speaker cards will be accepted until the time discussion is closed and Council begins deliberation.
- When called upon, the person should come to the podium, state his/her name and address for the record, and, if speaking for an organization or other group, identify the organization or group represented.
- All remarks should be addressed to the Council as a whole, not to individual members.
- Questions, if any, should be directed to the Mayor who will determine whether, or in what manner, an answer will be provided.
You may also submit written / printed materials or graphic evidence for inclusion in the record of the hearing. This is especially useful if you will be quoting any statistics or research, or citing information that contradicts something a city official or expert witness has said, because if they believe a misstatement has been made, they can “correct or clarify” it. They don’t even have to do it right there and then, they can wait until the next meeting. Here’s the relevant passage from the protocols:
If a Councilmember believes that a material misstatement of fact has been made by a person during the public comment portion of the agenda, the Councilmember may ask the City Manager or City Attorney to correct or otherwise clarify the matter or the Councilmember may provide a direct response at that time. If a spontaneous response is not possible, correction or clarification will be provided at the next regular meeting of the Council.