People who want to make their opinions heard to the Raleigh City Council can now leave a voicemail, according to a news release. 

The new form of public comment—which comes after months of criticism over the city council’s approach to community engagement—gives people another way to participate in council meetings. Starting next week, people who want to speak at city council meetings don’t necessarily have to show up in person. Instead, they can leave a voicemail message up to three minutes long.

During the coronavirus pandemic, participation in city council meetings went up as people were able to watch the meetings virtually and call in to give public comments. 

When the council resumed its traditional in-person meetings, many complained about the return to stricter rules for public comment, in which people have to physically attend meetings to speak about issues, such as new development.

Commenters on social media mentioned the difficulty in-person public commenting poses to people with multiple jobs, single parents, and those with disabilities or continuing health concerns about COVID-19. 

Now, after consulting with the city attorney, the city council is finally allowing people to go back to commenting via phone. 

People who want to make their voices heard can dial 919-301-9499 to leave a comment for a specific council meeting. Commenters will be instructed to leave their name and address and follow the city council’s “rules of decorum.” 

Callers have up to three minutes to leave comments related to agenda items for the upcoming meeting. City council meetings are on the first and third Tuesday of every month. Public comment by voicemail will open at 5 p.m. the Thursday prior to the meeting and close at 5 p.m. Monday.

For example, voicemail public comments for the council’s upcoming meeting on Sept. 20 will open at 5 p.m. this Thursday, Sept. 15. The comments will be sent to council members prior to the meeting. 

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