How do Council Meetings Work?
If you’ve never been to a Council Meeting, they can be kind of confusing. We’ve built this guide to make it easier for you to understand how the whole thing works.
What To Bring:
✓ A form of Photo Identification
✓ An outline or script if you want to make a public comment
✓ A pencil and paper to take notes
Getting to the meeting:
Council Meetings are almost always in the Government Center’s 2nd-floor Council Chamber, located at 200 East Main Street.
If you’re driving to the meeting, you can park at a metered space on the street, the Helix lot behind the County Clerk’s office on Main Street, or the Library lot, behind the Public Library’s Central Branch. Both are located on the map above.
The LexTran Transfer Station / Transit Center is a 3-minute walk away.
If you’re biking, there are plenty of bike racks right in front.
Entering the building:
Everyone who isn’t a city employee has to sign in at the front desk.
You will need to sign in at the front desk. Tell the Security Guards you are here for the Council Meeting. You will hand your photo identification to the security guard, and they will print you a name tag. Hold on to it because you’ll need to return it when you leave.
The Council Chambers are on the second floor. You can take the elevator or the stairs on the right side of the lobby to get to the second floor.
Both the stairs and the elevator drop you within eyesight of the Council Chambers.
In Council Chambers:
As soon as you enter Council Chambers there will usually be meeting packets on the table to your left. These are the meeting agendas and will include things like ordinances, budget amendments, and presentations that will be addressed during the meeting.
If you want to give a public comment, now is the time to sign up! Look for the sheet on the same table as the packets.
You can sit anywhere in the audience-style seating in the middle of the room.
All of the Council members are seated in the “horseshoe” at the front of the room. Most Council Members will be there, unless they have a conflict.
The Council Clerk (aka rulekeeper) sits in the area on the left side of the room.
The G3TV crew who film all the meetings sits on the right side of the room.
The back of the room, separated by a partition, is where the press and council aides sit.
What happens in a meeting?
Council Meetings follow a pretty standard, formal process called a “Docket”.
Council conduct and etiquette are dictated by Robert’s Rules, the set of parliamentary procedure standards that are used to facilitate discussion and group decision-making. If you’re not used to it, it can feel like you are have time-traveled back to 17th Century England.
The first thing that happens is Roll Call - this is a formal recording of what Council Members are present.
Then there’s the Invocation, where the meeting is called to order. Sometimes a prayer or reading will accompany the formal call to order.
Then they will approve the minutes of the previous meeting. This is a standard process that makes sure there are no discrepancies in the notes from the last meeting.
The next thing is the second reading of Resolutions and Ordinances. The first thing you will probably notice is that they are speed-read… like you are at an auction. The real meat of debate about these happens in Council Work Sessions, making the readings more of a formality.
All Resolutions and Ordinances must go through two readings before coming to a vote.
While they are being read, you may see meeting attendees get up out of their seats, walk around, and talk to each other during this time. It can be kind-of confusing!
Periodically, there will be larger items on the agenda that require Presentations. These happen in the middle of the meeting, with Council often taking time to discuss the topic and ask questions of the presenter.
How do I participate?
Public Comment usually happens at the end of Council Meetings.
If you want to participate during Public Comment, you will need to sign up to be added to the agenda. You should sign up at the beginning of the Council Meeting to be sure you have a chance to talk. Generally, the Vice Mayor (who presides over most meetings) will ask if anyone wants to be added at the beginning or end of the Public Comment period.
If you do get a chance to give comment, you will address the Council at a podium on the left side of the room.
By rule, Council members are discouraged from reacting emotionally to public comments in order to prevent a perception of bias. Try not to be discouraged of offended if you’re talking about an important and/or personal issue and no one seems to be reacting empathetically. It can be alienating.
It helps to bring a friend or someone familiar with the process who can boost your confidence and maybe make the situation less intimidating.
The best way to get an issue you care about before Council is to first contact your Council representative and talk with them about it.
Try to research the issue and find out if there are any other community members doing something to address it. If so, invite them to come along. There is strength in numbers.