NEW ORLEANS - In advance of Thursday's regularly scheduled City Council Meeting, public comment cards have been revised to request reflection of a speaker receiving compensation for their testimony. Cards for both public comment on agenda items and zoning matters have been updated.
The new public comment cards will do the following:
- Provide Signature line for speaker to affirm that their statements are true and correct;
- Provide a check-box to acknowledge whether the speaker is receiving any type of compensation for their comments or attendance;
- Update the land use and committee card to appear more professional;
- Limit the General Matters Card to only one agenda item.
Council President Jason Williams says, "This is just one in a series of steps that I believe we must take to defend our democratic process in the wake of the use of paid actors. Any attempt to pervert the true purpose of public discourse will not be tolerated. There is a difference between someone who does not have a ride to City Hall receiving transportation and actors getting a check for a performance. To be clear, this is not an attempt to restrict or encumber true grassroots organizing, but rather an effort to vet out the power and influence of money in public hearings."
Council Vice President Helena Moreno says, "To protect the public, our public processes, and - critically - the First Amendment Rights of all citizens, we need to bring as much transparency as possible to the Council Chambers. Making it clear, at the outset, if anyone has received something of value in exchange for their appearance or testimony, helps the public and council properly weigh comments made in the chamber. We want all participants to know if any testimony is motivated by or in exchange for some type compensation and not by genuine interest in our democratic process. These changes help secure and elevate public comment for the engaged public, not for actors or special interests."