Discourse with Dignity

Guidelines for Public Bodies Meeting Participation  

Welcome to the City of Ferndale! Whether you’re attending a meeting of City Council, or a board or commission (“public body”), first and foremost we are glad to have you here. We value public engagement above all else, and we welcome your respectful participation. 


To ensure that Ferndale public bodies’ meetings run smoothly and effectively and that every person has the chance to be recognized and heard, the City’s public bodies follow Ferndale City Council’s Rules of Procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order, most recent version, as amended. The City has also prepared the following information to help you understand how and when to participate effectively.  


To communicate with City Council and City officials between meetings, or if you’re unable to attend meetings in person, please reach out to City Council or the City Manager’s Office.

Discourse with Dignity

We ask all attendees to review and follow these points to ensure discourse with dignity for all.  

  1. Participation from traditionally underserved and unheard-from voices is encouraged, and we are committed to making our spaces safe for these community members to be heard. 

  1. Remember that some audience members or speakers may be attending their first public meeting or may feel uncomfortable speaking publicly, and their voices deserve to be heard. Please be respectful.  

  1. Disorderly conduct from the audience that disrupts or disturbs the meeting* is not allowed; all participants deserve the opportunity to hear the meeting without interference by others. 

  1. Abusive language, threats, bullying, and personal attacks shall not be permitted, and such language may be ruled out of order by the Mayor or presiding officer.  

  1. For productive conversation, comments should address issues, not people; e.g. I’m bothered by this plan because… versus insulting or name-calling.  

The Mayor or presiding officer has the authority to enforce the Rules of Procedure. Individuals who engage in disorderly conduct or disturb the public meeting may be ruled out of order by the Mayor or presiding officer. If a person continues to be disorderly and disrupt the public meeting, they may be asked to leave the meeting or the Mayor or presiding officer may request a recess of the public meeting to restore order and allow the business of the public body to proceed.  


We at the City of Ferndale believe in the rights of all people to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech while maintaining dignity in our public meetings. Thank you for helping us to achieve this important balance. 


*What is disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace? 

City of Ferndale Code of Ordinance, Sec 12-63, Disturbing The Peace:

It shall be unlawful for any person to disturb, tend to disturb, incite or aid in disturbing the public peace by loud, violent, tumultuous, offensive or obstreperous conduct, or to make or participate in making any unreasonable noise or disturbance riot or breach of the peace, or to engage in any illegal or unreasonable act, and no person shall knowingly permit any such conduct upon any premises owned or possessed by him or under his control. 

City of Ferndale Council Rules of Procedure V. Citizen Participation, Disorderly Conduct at Meetings:

Persons addressing the Council shall make responsible comments and refrain from making personal, impertinent, slanderous or profane remarks. The Chair may call to order any person who is being disorderly by speaking when not recognized by the Chair or otherwise disrupting the proceedings by failing to be germane, by speaking longer than the allotted time, or by speaking vulgarities. Such persons shall be seated until the Chair shall have determined whether the person is in order. If the person shall continue to be disorderly and disrupt the meeting, the Chair may order the Police Department to remove the person from the meeting.  

Public Comment Procedure

When to Make a Public Comment 

Depending on the public meeting, there can be multiple opportunities for public comment. 


  1. Call to Audience 
    Council has set aside a strict 30-minute period for people to speak on any topic. Each person wishing to speak may do so for up to three minutes. If there are still persons interested in addressing Council after 30 minutes, the Mayor or presiding officer shall reopen Call to Audience immediately prior to Call to Council. Speakers should not expect Council members to remark on or respond directly to their comments during the meeting. The Mayor or presiding officer may request that the City Manager’s Office follow up after the meeting or provide additional information to Council at a later date. 

  1. Public Hearings 
    During a scheduled required public hearing, the Mayor or presiding officer will open public comment at the conclusion of staff’s overview or presentation and persons may speak on the matter for up to three minutes. 

  1. Regular Agenda Items 

After a motion is made and seconded, the Mayor or presiding officer shall allow public comment on the agenda item for up to three minutes.  


How to Make a Public Comment 

  • Approach the podium during the public comment opportunity that best fits your comment and begin by providing your name and street name or address.  

  • Speak clearly into the microphone. Many public meetings are recorded and/or broadcast live, and digital viewers/listeners deserve to hear your comments. City staff will assist if you need accommodations to access the microphone. 

  • Direct your comments to the Mayor or presiding officer, not directly to City staff, other speakers, or residents.  

  • Each person’s public comments are limited to three minutes per agenda item. Residents requested a clock timer to assist with time limits, which is now in use in City Council Chambers. Additionally, the Mayor or presiding officer will let you know when you’ve reached your limit.  

  • If you wish to submit written information, you may provide a copy to the City Clerk and/or other City staff as directed. Please ask for permission before approaching the dais (the table at the front of the room where the Council or commission or board is seated).  

  • You may speak once on each issue. 

  • You may not share or relinquish any remaining time to another speaker.