Civic Engagement 101: Citizens’ Right to Speak

Tonight’s the night. Wheat Ridge City Council is meeting at 7:00pm, and you have something to say. You want your voice to be heard, but how? The meetings always seem so formal. Everyone else seems to know how to navigate the process. Not to worry! Localworks’ Partners in Progress Committee has created a helpful guide on speaking during public comment.

1. Figure out what you’re going to say.
What do you want to talk about? Remember, City Council meetings aren’t just a place to talk about your frustrations, they are also a great place to brag about your community. Did you have an exceptional experience with a local business? Maybe your child’s school went above and beyond for their students. Whatever the topic, Citizens’ Right to Speak is your time to speak directly to your council and to the wider community.

2. Structure your comments.
No matter what you’re talking about, you want people to understand what you’re saying. Help people follow along by breaking up your thoughts into four parts. Start with introducing the issue you want to address. From there, move on to your argument. Be sure to include why this issue is important to you and why the rest of the community should care. Then, you’ll want to close with what you feel are the appropriate next steps to address the issue. Finally, it’s always a good idea to end by thanking council for their time.

3. Practice.
Practice what you are going to say a few times. Be sure to talk slowly, and if you are typing out your statement to read, use a large font.

4. Go to the meeting and sign up.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but choosing the right type of meeting, attending and signing up to speak can be a bit confusing. If you’re going to speak during public comment, you want to attend a regular meeting, not a study session. Regular meetings are held every other Monday at 7pm. Check out the calendar on the right side of the City Council page to see if the upcoming meeting is a regular meeting or a study session. After you pick your meeting and arrive, you need to sign in. If you are there to talk about an item that is not on the agenda, be sure to sign up under Citizens’ Right to Speak. During that time, you can address any community issues that are on your mind. If you are there to talk about something on the agenda, be sure so sign up under that agenda item.

5. Start with your name and address.
You’ll start by saying your name, spelling your last name and giving your address.

6. Stay within the time limit.
You have three minutes to speak. To keep you on track, there is a green, yellow and red light on the podium. Your time will begin after you introduce yourself. The green light flashes when you have 30 seconds left. The yellow light will come on when you have 15 seconds left. The red light turns on when your time is up. If you know that your comments are going to take longer than 3 minutes, you’ll need another community member to yield their time to you. Even with yielded time, you have a maximum of 9 minutes to speak.

You get to cast one vote for City Council every two years. This is your chance to make your voice heard now. Go for it!