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Deliver Public Comments

Purposes

  • Demonstrate support for or opposition to a policy already under consideration by government.
  • Bring an unaddressed issue or new policy idea to government’s attention.

Ideal Outcomes

  • Policies already under consideration: your government incorporates your views into the policy process. You may be placed on an email list for updates, solicited for further comments in writing, or contacted for an in-person discussion.
  • New Ideas: your government follows up with you. Your idea may become a future agenda item.

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Find the appropriate body for your comments. Examples: state legislature, county supervisory board, city council, planning commissions.Policies already under consideration: find out which body is currently deliberating it through local news sources or a government website.
    • New ideas: find the body most likely to act on the issue. How?
      • Review charters and past agendas of various bodies and guess. Even if it’s not a perfect fit, officials will try to find a way to address good ideas

Tip: Working with an elected representative who shares your concerns is a great way to advance your idea

  1. Choose when to deliver your comments.
    • Policies already under consideration: when the issue is on the agenda.
    • New ideas: choose the next meeting without a contentious issue already on the agenda.
  2. Draft talking points or full remarks beforehand.Remarks should:
      • Be concise, stating your position for a broad audience in 1-2 minutes.
      • Be prescriptive about government action (e.g. “vote yes on this policy” or “investigate the environmental impacts of this chemical”).
      • Provide information about why the issue matters to you personally.
    • Remarks should NOT:
      • Delve into policy details or use technical jargon.
      • Assume listeners are already familiar with your position or idea.

Tip: Use public comments to raise a concern or idea...not spell out the solution

  1. Bring a printed copy of your comment with your contact information to the meeting.
  2. Arrive on time and try to stay for the duration.The public comment period is often at the beginning, so arrive early. You may be asked to sign in and provide contact information.
    • Relevant public comments might be at the start of the discussion period for each agenda item, so plan to stay for the entire meeting.

Tip: If you can't stay for the whole meeting, ask to give your comments at the beginning.

  1. Be respectful and polite while delivering comments.
    • Identify yourself before starting your remarks and thank the body for listening when you are done.

Examples

Article - March 22, 2020
Graduate Students Advocate for Transportation Safety in Houston
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Kathryn Kundrod and Mary Natoli are Ph.D. candidates in the bioengineering graduate program at Rice University and active members of Rice University’s Cycling and Triathlon Club. ESAL interviewed them about their advocacy for transportation safety around campus and broadly in the City of Houston.

Article - December 23, 2018
Developing Climate Policy on a Municipal Advisory Board
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Robert G. Kennedy III, PE, has long viewed civic engagement and technical expertise as balanced components in a well-rounded career. Since 2008, he has served on the Environmental Quality Advisory Board for Oak Ridge, Tennessee and is currently the board’s chair.

Article - June 11, 2018
Delivering Public Comments at a City Committee Meeting
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In this month’s “Postcard”, Arti Garg describes delivering public comments at a city council committee meeting.

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Last Updated: Oct 25, 2018
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