September 5


How to Run a Public Hearing

By Mike Spack

September 5, 2008

I go to about one public hearing a month to present the results of a traffic study or to be available for questions.  Tuesday night I went to the best run public hearing of my career at the Chisago County (MN) Planning Commission.  The meeting was dedicated to taking testimony about a new location for Hay Days (a  weekend event that draws about 20,000 people on the Saturday).

The public hearing went well for three reasons –

  1. On topic:  There were three questions that the public could speak about.  This was well advertised in advance (website, local paper, etc.) and was detailed on large posters that were hung throughout the county building.  There was a greeter at the entrance of the meeting room that explained this (it wasn't a bitch session) and had a sign up sheet for those wishing to speak about one of the items.  The chairman called up the people who wanted to speak in order of their sign up and kept them on topic.
  2. Organized Neighbors:  A neighborhood group formed that was very well organized.  They developed a ten page written paper that presented their issues on the three questions at hand.  The group submitted this in writing the afternoon of the hearing.  They had seven speakers who each spoke about a part of the ten page paper.  Once they were done, most of the other people who signed up to speak declined because the neighborhood group covered the issues very well.
  3. Not a Debate:  Decisions will be made at subsequent meetings.  This gives staff and the applicant's team time to thoroughly prepare for and respond at the next meeting.

The public hearing lasted for about an hour and 15 minutes – the shortest public hearing I have ever been to.  Amazing given the significant neighborhood opposition.

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Mike Spack

My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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