As residents of South Portland and former South Portland city councilors, Tom Blake, Rosemarie De Angelis, Louie Maietta and I have collectively spent thousands of hours in council chambers: as residents speaking to our councilors at the lectern, and as councilors listening to residents as they shared their concerns with us.

We appreciate the desire to streamline City Council meetings, but we strongly disagree with the council’s recent proposal to reduce the opportunities for citizen discussion at those meetings.

The current system, which has been in place for decades, provides two opportunities at each meeting for citizens to speak about any topic on or off the agenda: one near the beginning of the meeting, and the other near the end.

The proposed change, set for a public hearing Tuesday, would eliminate the earlier opportunity for citizen discussion.

The current two-part system of public discussion provides much-needed flexibility for residents who are unable to stay for the entire meeting, as well as residents who must arrive late because of family or work obligations.

Parents of young children, people who get up early in the morning and many others are unable to stay at council meetings past 8 p.m. and therefore would be unable to communicate with their municipal leaders publicly, face to face, if the proposal is enacted.

We encourage the City Council to keep the two-part discussion period in place. It benefits both the public and the council.

We hope that the council will look for other ways to streamline its meetings, and we hope that it will expand and enhance, rather than reduce, opportunities for public participation.

Adrian T. Dowling

South Portland