We thank House Sacramento for their great guide on how to make a public comment, which we adapted for this post! https://www.housesac.org/atc
All members of the public are able to participate in the city’s legislative process by making comments at City Council meetings and at the city’s various board & commission meetings. It is really important for residents to make public comments and make their voices heard at these meetings. A sea of comments for or against a specific outcome will influence the City Council and will make them feel more accountable to the decisions they make.
It is also important for residents to talk to board and commission members because these bodies make recommendations directly to City Council on binding policies that the council will vote on. Boards and commissions can be highly influential on City Council, so it is critical that we make our voices heard at their public meetings!
In the end, the City Council will only make decisions based on what they think is politically acceptable or feasible, and they won’t act on something that they don’t hear strong support for. Strong SacTown advocates must be loud and vocal about what we want and believe!
Unfortunately, making public comments can be a confusing and frustratingly inaccessible process. All of us who have made public comments can tell you that we felt intimidated and confused the first time we did it. That is why we created this guide to make it easier for residents to know how to engage and exercise their civic rights!
There are 3 ways to make a public comment at a City meeting:
- In-person at City Hall (Most recommended)
- Virtually on Zoom (Next best thing)
- Electronic written comments (Still good but not as influential)
You do not need to register with the City or take any special steps before the day of the meeting.
For #1 & #2, you must arrive on time and sign up at the start of the meeting in order to make a public comment.
Check the agenda in advance by going to the city’s Meetings & Agendas site to see what the agenda items are and which ones you plan to comment on.
Note: You can also always make a comment on matters not on the agenda, but it won’t be as influential and you still have to sign up at the start of the meeting and then wait all the way until the end of the meeting to give your comment.
When it is your time to speak, we recommend that you give your name and council district. All speakers will have 2 minutes to address the legislative body and will be muted after the allocated time. You can sign up to speak on multiple agenda items.
1) In-person at City Hall:
Go to Sacramento City Hall at 915 I Street, between 9th & 10th St just north of I St. Walk into the courtyard between the old City Hall (facing I Street) and New City Hall (new-looking building behind it – see image below).
Walk into the main entrance of New City Hall, then turn left. Enter the double doors that lead to the main hearing room/auditorium. Walk in quietly and look for a Speaker Slip (see image).
Fill out the Speaker Slip with the Agenda Item Number (or topic for matters not on the agenda), the date, your name, your council district, your phone, email, and that you’re representing Strong SacTown.
Then take a seat and wait. You will be called to speak at the time that the agenda item is being discussed.
2) Virtually on Zoom:
- LOCATE the meeting agenda and Zoom link on the City’s Upcoming Meetings website for the meeting you wish to make public comment.
- LOG IN to the meeting by either clicking on the Zoom webinar link on the meeting’s agenda or dialing the Zoom phone number and entering the webinar ID.
- “RAISE YOUR HAND” to provide public comment when the presiding officer confirms the public comment speaking period for your desired item.
- Online: If you are online, click on “raise hand” on the bottom of your screen.
- Mobile App: In the mobile app, you can raise your hand by tapping the “Raise Hand” option in the “More” tab.
- Telephone: If you are calling in via telephone, to raise your hand, dial *9 (star-nine). Then to unmute or mute, dial *6 (star-six). Speakers will be called on by the last four digits of their phone number.
3) Electronic written comment:
If you can’t attend the meeting in-person or virtually, you can submit written comments electronically. Written comments received are distributed to members, filed in the record but are NOT read aloud. You can submit these comments electronically via eComment, through the City’s Upcoming Meetings website or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- BE CONCISE: Stick to 3 talking points max. Practice saying your comment with a timer before the meeting starts. 2 minutes goes by fast! 250 words is a good guideline.
- SPEAK SLOWLY AND CLEARLY
- INTRODUCE YOURSELF: Start by saying your name and council district (not required but definitely more influential if you do). Mention that you’re a member of Strong SacTown. Share anything that’s important to your experience, like your age, race, job, your family, school, etc.
- STATE YOUR ASK: State the specific action you want the council or commission to take. Say it at the start and repeat it at the end. For example:
- “I seriously oppose the budget of $5 million for a new gas station in midtown. I urge City Council to vote no on this budget and to reallocate the funds to public transit in priority areas.”
- “This budget goes against the goals you all agreed to uphold in the General Plan and the Climate Action & Adaptation Plan. You as City Council must do your duty to oppose this budget and ensure that our funds are used to make Sacramento a more walkable and less car-dependent city.”
- TELL YOUR STORY: You don’t need to give tons of statistics to back up your statement. It can be just as important to tell YOUR story! You can put a face and a name to the issue.
- CONNECT YOURSELF TO THE ISSUE: You can choose to talk about the why a decision will impact you negatively and/or why a decision will make your life and experience as a Sacramentan better. Either way, talk about the impact this decision will make on you and on the greater good.
- Here’s a general outline:
- INTRO: Say your name, district, and any other important details.
- POSITION STATEMENT: Give a 1 or 2 sentence statement about your position and what your “ask” is
- WHY: Talk about how this decision impacts you personally and the greater good.
- MORE DETAIL: Include outside references or your own expertise/view as a member of the public.
- CLOSING: Reiterate your position statement and your ask. Thank them for their attention.
City Meetings Schedule for 2023
Now that you’ve learned how to make a public comment, you just need to keep track of which City meetings are happening and when.
You can subscribe to our Calendar which lists the following city meeting dates.
- City Council: Meets weekly on Tuesdays at 5 PM
- Planning and Design Commission: Meets twice monthly on the 2nd and 4th Thursday starting at 5:30 PM
- Zoom Link | Webinar ID: 956 8919 3474 | Passcode: 391416
- Preservation Commission: Meets monthly on the 3rd Wednesday starting at 5:30 PM
- Zoom Link | Webinar ID: 978 3717 2777 | Passcode: 984029
- Active Transportation Commission: Meets monthly on the 3rd Thursday starting at 6 PM
- Zoom Link | Webinar ID: 958 4788 1874 | Passcode: 781435