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This story was first published on April 11, 2023.
COLUMBUS, Ga. — “The true source of our sufferings has been our timidity.” — John Adams.
As most residents are acutely aware, the political state of the Fountain City has seen better days. Through violent gang-related crime, staggering rates of homelessness, and a poverty rate twice the national average, it is clear that we as a city have our work cut out for us.
Fortunately, the ideas for how to best address and fix these extremely-serious issues do not have to come from behind the bench of our city’s elected officials.
They can come from you.
In fact, our city’s form of government strongly encourages you to take an active role in civic engagement by publicly speaking your mind on issues that are politically important to you.
During each regular meeting of the Columbus City Council, there is a section of the meeting called the Public Agenda.
This section is entirely dedicated to having everyday residents just like you voice their opinions on whatever they deem to be of political importance to our city.
It is incredibly easy to apply.
STEP ONE: GO TO THE CITY COUNCIL WEBSITE
The first step is to go to the city council’s website at https://www.columbusga.gov/council.
You’ll be met with a group of photos of each city council member. Scroll down past this until you see a stack of blue buttons.
STEP TWO: CLICK ‘PUBLIC AGENDA APPLICATION’
Toward the bottom of the page in that stack of blue buttons, there will be a button that says ‘Public Agenda Application.’
STEP THREE: ACCEPT THE GUIDELINES
Once you click the blue application button, you’ll be met with a short list of guidelines for how meetings are scheduled and what sort of media you can and cannot include in your presentation to council.
We urge you to independently read and ensure you understand the guidelines in their entirety.
Once you’ve read and understand the guidelines, check the box at the bottom of the page. Once checked, a blue button will appear that says ‘Proceed.’
STEP FOUR: FILL OUT APPLICATION
Once you click the ‘Proceed’ button, you’ll be brought to the actual application form. It’s a pretty short and straight-forward form that should only take a minute or two to complete.
Date of Presentation
The first box on the form is to specify the date you would like to address Council. Since regular city council meetings occur on a set schedule, you’ll have to pick a day and time that council is actually meeting.
Council meets no less than twice monthly:
Note that you’ll have to submit your application no later than 12:00 p.m. on the Friday before you plan to speak in order to be scheduled on that upcoming meeting’s agenda.
Be prepared to enter your personally-identifiable information, including:
Reason For Appearing
The next and final bit of information is to state the reason you wish to speak. While there is a drop-down list of selectable reasons, one of those selectable options is ‘other.’ If your topic of conversation is not included on the drop-down list, simply select ‘other’ and type your reason in the ‘Specify Reason’ field.
The Fine Print
Before you can hit that submit button, there are a few items you must agree to understand by typing your initials in a box next to each individual item. The list isn’t all that long:
Right below those five items, there will be a brief message of what to expect in your confirmation email after you click the submit button.
You’ll receive two (2) separate confirmation emails: one letting you know that your firm has been submitted, and then another later on confirming the date you wish to address Council.
You should receive that second confirmation email within 24 hours after submitting your application, so don’t freak out when you don’t receive it immediately. Each application has to be manually reviewed.
If you haven’t received that confirmation email within 24 hours, you should contact the Clerk of Council’s office at 706-225-4013.
STEP FIVE: CLICK SUBMIT
Once you’ve completed the form, checked all the blocks, and feel you’ve adequately read and understood the guidelines, click the blue ‘Submit’ button on the bottom of the page.
Congratulations — you’ve just done more to better your city than 99% of its residents.
Now go prepare your thoughts for Council in a tactful and professional manner while you wait on your two confirmation emails.
The future of our city depends on you.
Facts are stubborn things — and we’ll keep publishing them, whether city officials like them or not.
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