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NEVADA CITY, Calif. January 10, 2016 – Tuesday’s Nevada County Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting will deal with a proposed ban on the outdoor cultivation of marijuana. Opinions in the community are wide-ranging and many people have expressed a desire to “make a point” at the meeting. Here’s a primer on “how this works” and what to expect at the Rood Center.

The basics

All meetings of the BOS are open to the public. The meetings are broadcast live, starting at 9:00 am for a regular meeting like this one. There is a general public comment period set aside at each meeting for items not on the agenda, but in the jurisdiction of the BOS.

You can comment on any item on the agenda, just take a seat in one of the two chairs at the podium in front of the dais. State your name (sorry, your Facebook nickname doesn’t count) and you have up to three minutes to voice your opinion on the matter – once you have been recognized by the Chair of the BOS.

You can comment once on an item, unless a Supervisor has a question for you.

Effective comments – Pro Tips

You are commenting on an item because you care. Make the most of your three minutes:

Know your facts and data. Each item on the BOS agenda has supporting documents, staff reports, memos and the text of the ordinance, resolution, contract or letter the supervisors will vote on. Take the time to read through them. For the January 12th agenda, the supporting documents for each item can be found by clicking on the link next to the item description. i.e.: Supporting documents for the proposed amendments to the urgency ordinance: here. Supporting documents for the proposed ballot measure: here.

Put your comments in writing. Unless you are a frequent public speaker, addressing an issue you care about in front of a packed board chamber can be intimidating. Write your comments down, it’s perfectly OK to read from your notes. As a bonus, you can time the length of your comments and be certain you get to state your opinion in the time allotted. Pro Tip: You don’t have to speak for the full 3 minutes. A short, concise statement carries just as much weight.

Stay on topic. While your views on everything under the sun are just as important as your neighbor’s, they are not on the agenda. Speak to the issue before the BOS. For everything else, send us a letter to the editor. Address the supervisors, not the audience. Pro Tip: Personal attacks or name-calling are a waste of time and don’t forget you’ll be on camera.

No leafleting. If you plan on handing documents to the supervisors, don’t get up and start distributing them. Instead, hand at least six copies to the Clerk of the Board who will pass them to the supervisors. If you want the media to have copies too, plan on four additional copies.

Relax. Public comment is not a job interview or the SAT. Speakers before you may have a different opinion, others may agree with you. It is democracy in action, not a blood sport.

Decorum and those very uncomfortable seats

Arrive early. Tuesday’s afternoon session will be packed. The BOS resumes their meeting at 1:30, doors will open at approximately 1:20 pm. Come early and get a good, if uncomfortable, seat. Yes, this could be a very long meeting. If you have trouble sitting in a very hard chair for long periods of time, plan ahead and bring a cushion.

Turn your phone off or set it to vibrate. An ill-timed phone call and 130 of your newest friends will know your ring tone.

At the beginning of the meeting the Chair of the BOS will explain the rules for the meeting. Applause, boos and comments shouted from the audience are not welcome. Everybody has the right to be heard without feeling intimidated by the rest of the public. Common courtesy rules.

Hydrate before the meeting and no, don’t bring snacks. No food or drink in the Board Chambers. Also, no weapons.