How to Make a Public Comment at a City Council Meeting

Whether you are a social activist or simply a concerned citizen, speaking to your city council is a great way to show that you care about something and to get your thoughts across to the public, and more importantly, city officials. Here's how to make your point, and be heard.


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    Research your topic of interest. Do local governments have the power to do what you want them to do? Gather any facts you want to present, including citations.
    • Read the local news. Keep current on issues facing your community.
    • Review the minutes from recent meetings to find out what actions have recently been taken relating to your concerns.
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    Find out when your next city council meeting is. Check at your city's website if they have one.
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    Read the agenda for the meeting you plan to attend. While there is often a period for public comment on any topic, councils generally cannot act on anything unless it is on the agenda.
    • Understand what is being done. Is your council studying and planning, or is it voting on an issue? What will the vote decide?
    • Read any supporting documents for the agenda item which concerns you. Plans, reports, drafts of ordinances, proposals, and many other documents may be available. Understand what is being proposed and what action may be taken.
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    Write your comments.
    • Be aware of any time limits on comments (typically 2 or 3 minutes), and practice your comments out loud a few times to make sure you can say what you want in the allotted time.
    • Make notes. You could read from a paper, but be aware that you may sound flat and make little eye contact. You could also make a note card of points and speak from that.
    • Be prepared to be nervous. Even if you plan and practice well, you may still feel pressure when you are at the podium, with the timer running and the council looking at you. Pre-write your notes if you need to.
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    Go to your city hall and fill out a speaker card, if one is required. If you're not sure what the procedure is, arrive a little early and ask.
    • At some council meetings, you may also speak simply by lining up to do so during the comment period. It is usually best to submit a card if you know in advance you plan to speak.
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    Attend the meeting, and wait until you are called up.
    • Dress appropriately. You need not dress overly formally, but dress more as you might for an office than for the beach. If you are affiliated with a group, and especially if other group members will be present, consider wearing a uniform, t-shirt, or other insignia.
    • Listen to others' comments on the issue(s) of concern,
    • Listen to anyone giving a presentation on the issue(s) of concern. Sometimes city staff, engineers, architects, or other direct stakeholders make presentations to explain what is being proposed. Listen carefully.
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    Decide whether you want to adjust your remarks. If you are confident enough to make changes at this point, it can save scarce time to say that you agree or disagree with previous speaker(s), and would like to add something. It can also help your comments to be on point with what is really at issue.
    • The simplest adjustment to make is to strike out and omit any part which is no longer relevant or correct.
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    Go up to the podium confidently when called. Thank whichever person called you, putting their title (mayor, council member) before their last name.
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    Introduce yourself, state that you live in the city, and state any relevant affiliations. If you are a member of a group but are speaking for yourself, say so.
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    State your position clearly. This is the most important part, and the reason you came. Briefly explain your reasoning or describe evidence.
    • It's ok to be nervous, and to refer to your notes. Do your best to speak clearly, to make eye contact, and to sound human.
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    Thank the city council when done making your comments.
    • Conclude when your time is up, whether you have completed your thoughts or not. It's generally all right to finish your sentence or say thank you after the timer goes off, but don't keep going any longer than that.
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    Submit any additional communication in writing. If you have additional remarks or supporting materials, or if you can't attend, write it down. Many city councils have an email address, and most should have a city clerk or other staff member present, who can collect printed material for the record. Ask before the meeting if you're not sure what to do with such matter.
    • If you are submitting photos, graphs, or other supporting material along with your comment, mention it during your comment.
    • It's best to submit written materials before a meeting, especially if the council will be making a decision on a matter the same day.


  • If you want more time and for them to take you more seriously, get involved with another community group and have it actually be on the council's agenda.
  • Attend a meeting where you don't plan on speaking. It will help you know how much time you will have, what the procedure is for speaking, and so on. You may also be able to watch recordings of previous meetings.
  • If you're not sure what the procedure is for speaking at your meeting, ask before the meeting begins. City staff should be able to point you in the right direction.
  • You will usually have 2 or 3 minutes to speak. You do not have to use it all, but do make good use of the time you do take.
  • Planning ahead is not required, but it will help you to speak with authority and confidence.
  • Your local public library can be a great resource about issues facing your community, and can often help you gather information about what actions have already been taken. Ask a reference librarian if you need help.
  • You may feel relaxed and confident throughout the meeting, but when you know you will be up soon, you'll have that feeling where your heart and stomach are quivering. That is completely normal, especially for first-timers.
  • You may have regrets, about not mentioning something, mentioning the wrong thing, or speaking hesitantly. Consider yourself successful if you got your points across. Other people really won't notice many of the faults of you as much as you do.


  • Be respectful of the council, of city staff, and of other speakers. Express strong feelings with words, not by raising your voice, using foul language, threatening, talking out of turn, or continuing past your time limit. Recognize that others may have equally strong, opposing viewpoints, and that they have as much right to speak as you do.

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Categories: Public Speaking