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Effective Public Comment

Zuma Dogg and MayorSam have teamed to bring you clips of a couple of Councilpeople, including the Prez, yapping through what was otherwise noteworthy public comment. But of course this has been the way Councilmembers have treated public comment for decades. Remember Mike Hernandez hopping around? I don't think he was ever even seated during any public comment session in his whole tenure of office.

Here are some pointers on making effective public comment:

  1. Wear business attire. Pretend you're going to court. You are: these people are the law, these people make laws.
  2. If you have prepared remarks, make sure they're ready to go, and take them out of something clean and formidable quickly when you get to the mike.
  3. Try to talk to one of your own council district deputies before you make the comment. Try to draw it to your Council district deputy's attention that you're going to make the comment a day or two ahead of time, and try to give the deputy a draft or copy of who you are and what you are going to say, with contact information. Ask them what you think might make public comment most valuable for them. Sure, it may be insincere. But you won't look like Leonard Shapiro reacting to the morning's headlines, which you should do at your local blog anyway.
  4. Follow the order, "Mr. President Garcetti, Madame Pro Tem Greuel, Councilman LaBonge (or whomever your Councilman is), and members of City Council..."
  5. If you are even tangentially affiliated with any organization, make it known. The more City of LA voters tied to that organization the better. Naming churches, temples, and mosques in the City are great attention getters. So are city-based businesses and organizations.
  6. Make no predictions of doom, and certainly make no threats. The prophet is unwelcome in his or her own country.
  7. Be bullet-point quick. Sequential arguments piled one on top of the other are most effective.
  8. Excepting causa celebres when you or your "team" have invited media, this is not a moment for dramatic oratory. This is a moment to be a teacher, to educate. What is Council missing? What story didn't they have in Committee on your issue, what story won't they be getting from the CLA? That is what will be best heard.

After your public comment, leave the mike stand. But don't sit down; walk to some place where you can be approached. Maybe there is someone in the gallery who wants to talk to you; maybe even someone from a Council office. Hang out standing wherever you think is a good spot to hang out for a minute or two, to enable any new friend to get to know you.

That's your right. It's your Chamber as much as theirs.