Residents submitting written comments to the City Council are being warned that a new system will post those messages online, including any personal information provided by the writer.
Starting with the Jan. 12 meeting, written comments including letters, emails and faxes are now being posted online. The material will not be redacted, and all email addresses and telephone numbers will appear online as they are submitted.
According to acting city clerk, Denise Anderson-Warren, the idea to implement this change started when Councilmember Sue Himmelrich asked if it would be possible for all letters to be posted online.
“We checked other cities to see what they were doing,” Anderson-Warren said. “We checked with the city attorney’s office. And after getting the all clear we decided we would start posting them online.”
Anderson-Warren said that everything that is received, up until 12 p.m. on the day of a council meeting, is posted online.
“It is really just for transparency purposes. We want people to be able to see what the comments are,” she said. “We want to give the public the opportunity to see the same thing the council is seeing.”
The acting city clerk said it was important to her office that people know that anything that is submitted will become part of the public record, as it always has been, but now it will be posted online as well.
“So with their names and contact information, they can either leave it in or take it out. But redacting things is not an option.”
Whether this has affected the habits of those who submit comments regarding council items, Anderson-Warren said it is too soon to tell.
“As a result of us advertising the change on the website people have requested that we retract things from a couple of years ago. I think that’s fine. It’s still part of the public record either way.”
Anderson-Warren said that, apart from the message on the council website, people will also be informed of the change by a bounce back message they will receive from the new email box letting them know that their comment will be posted online and cannot be redacted.
The acting city clerk said that since the new system went into effect the planning commission has shown interest in posting written comments submitted to them as well.
Anderson said the city wants people to be aware that they should be careful when submitting their information.
If you wish to comment on agenda items by email, direct them to email@example.com.