Meeting Access & Decorum Policy

The City of Durham welcomes and encourages civic participation and debate. Towards that end, the governing body seeks to be available and approachable for citizen input.

There are numerous avenues whereby Durham residents and property owners may contribute their efforts and offer information, opinion and other input to be considered within the decision-making process.

Get Informed
A valuable 1st step in participation is to stay abreast of City of Durham activities and issues. To find out about current or recent council actions, visit the council's website. Listed there are links to council meeting schedules, and agendas and minutes. Also present on the website is information on each department as well as boards and commissions. City news-casts provide timely information and announcements and include CityLife and City Hall This Week (Cable Channel 8), check the schedule for air times.

Get Involved
Get involved with a neighborhood association or organization and/or district Partners Against Crime (PAC) organization:
Contact Your Elected Council Members
Contact information (telephone, fax, email, address) for each Council Member, including the Mayor and City Manager, is available on the City's website as well as in printed guides. Send a general email to all Council members. To post mail to City Council members, use:
Office of the City Council
101 City Hall Plaza
Durham , NC 27701

Bring Input and/or Concern Before City Council
The City of Durham values your opinion and invites you to address the City Council on any matter of interest to you or your community. Rules of Decorum exist that are used to govern time, place and manner of expression to ensure responsiveness to your concern. See - Rules for Decorum for Citizen Participation.*

There are 2 venues available for citizens to address City Council: Council Work Sessions, and Council Meetings.

Work Sessions
Citizens may address the City Council about a matter of concern at Council Work Sessions (held on Thursdays in the same week as the Council's regular business meeting). "Citizen Matters" are heard in the Council's Committee Room , 2nd Floor, City Hall, beginning at 1 p.m.

Citizens who wish to address the City Council at a Work Session must make their request in writing to the agenda coordinator at least 10 calendar days prior to the Work Session at which they wish to speak. This process gives City staff adequate time to review the citizen's concern in advance in an effort to provide information or feedback or to further the matter as appropriate.

To make a request to address Council at a Work Session, citizens can use the Request to Appear Before the Council form. Forms are also available in the City Manager's Office.

The request should be received at least 10 calendar days prior to the work session date and sent to:
Agenda Coordinator
City Manager's Office
101 City Hall Plaza
Durham, NC 27701

Following the same deadline, requests may also be faxed to the agenda coordinator. (fax Number: 919-560-4949) or emailed from the city's website. Should a Council member wish to allow a citizen who has not submitted a written request to present an issue at the work session, a 2/3 majority vote of the entire Council is required to suspend the rules of procedure.

Council Meetings
Public Hearings are held by the City Council to give citizens the opportunity to comment on current issues involving the city. All public hearings are advertised and placed on the council's agenda to receive citizen remarks. Citizens also have opportunity to comment on items in the General Business section of the City Council meeting agenda.

To make comments at a City Council meeting, citizens should sign up by contacting the City Clerk's Office at 919-560-4166 during business hours in advance of the meeting. Citizens may also sign up at the council meeting by using the "Speaker's List" card located at the City Clerk's desk in City Council Chambers prior to the start of the meeting.

Sign up prior to the start of the meeting is not required for public hearings, for matters added to the agenda at the council meeting, or for matters removed from the consent agenda at the council meeting by a council member.

Serve on a Citizen Board or Commission
The Mayor and City Council appoint citizens to serve on 25 different boards and commissions that address various aspects of Durham 's quality of life - from cable television services and historic preservation to transit services and workforce development. A list of boards, commissions, their members and current vacancies can be found on our Boards, Committees, and Commissions page. Citizens interested in serving on a board or commission may obtain an application from the City Clerk's Office on the second floor of City Hall. An application is active at the time of vacancy only. For information, call the City Clerk's Office at 919-560-4166.

Exercise Voting Rights
City elections for the Durham City Council are held every 2 years (in odd number years). The terms for Council's 3 at-large seats, 3 ward seats and mayoral seat are staggered. Therefore, all 7 council seats are not up for election during the same election year.

The residency ward system exists to provide representation on City Council from different areas of the city. The concept of residency wards means that the City Council candidate must live in the ward he/she seeks to represent on council, but that the candidate is elected by all voters of the city. Wards do not impact where a citizen votes or for which candidate(s) a citizen may vote.

Registering
To vote, a citizen must be registered 30 days before an election. Citizens may register to vote in person at the Durham County Board of Elections Office, 706 W Corporation Street. Applications may also be obtained at any public library and the Department of Motor Vehicles. After registering to vote, you will receive a card from the Durham County Board of Elections providing precinct and polling place locations. For information, call the Durham County Board of Elections, 919-560-0700.

Rules of Decorum for Citizen Participation
In support of and respect for an open, fair and informed decision-making process, the City Council and the Administration recognize that:
  • Civil, respectful and courteous discourse and behavior are conducive to the democratic and harmonious airing of concerns and decision making; and
  • Uncivil discourse and/or discourteous and inappropriate behavior have a negative impact on the character and productivity of the decision-making process.
  • In an effort to preserve the intent of open government and maintain a positive environment for citizen input and Council decision-making, the following Rules of Decorum have been established.
Compliance with these rules is expected and appreciated. The Rules of Decorum will be included in the agenda and will be referenced at the beginning of each council meeting and council work session by the presiding officer. A written list of the Rules of Decorum will also be printed and mounted upon the walls of the Council Chambers and the Committee Room.
  • All citizens may participate in the public process.
  • The Mayor serves as the presiding officer of the Council, the Mayor Pro Tem serves in the Mayor's absence.
  • Citizens must sign up to address council using procedures outlined for council meetings and Council Work Sessions.
  • Citizens may speak only to the matter for which they signed up and, in the case of public hearings, those matters which have been advertised and placed on the council meeting agenda.
  • Citizens are encouraged to prepare remarks in advance for submission to the public record. Prepared remarks should be submitted to the clerk prior to the start of the meeting or at the end of their comments. Additional material may be submitted to supplement remarks.
  • In an effort to accommodate all who wish to address council at a council meeting while preserving a reasonable and efficient meeting schedule, each speaker will have a specified amount of time to deliver comments. Comments will be timed by the City Clerk or designee; signals will be provided at the 1-minute and 30-second measures. Speakers are expected to cease comments immediately upon end-time. Citizens who sign up in advance will be allowed to speak for up to 5 minutes.
  • Speakers will conduct themselves in a civil and respectful manner at all times.
  • Speakers will address the presiding officer.
  • Questions to council members or city staff will be facilitated by the presiding officer.
  • Speakers will state their name and address.
  • Speakers will make an effort to speak clearly into the microphone provided.
  • Speakers will make an effort to speak succinctly.
  • Speakers will refrain from the use of individual city staff names. It is appropriate to refer to staff by title and/or department.
  • Speakers will refrain from the use of obscene language, “fighting words” likely to incite violence from the individual(s) to whom the words are addressed, or other language which is disruptive to the orderly and fair progress of discussion at the meeting.
  • Speakers will refrain from making comments of a personal nature regarding others.
  • Name-calling and/or obscenity is forbidden.
  • Shouting, yelling or screaming is forbidden.
  • Council Work Session or public hearing attendees (audience) will refrain from commenting, shouting, booing, clapping, stomping feet or other inappropriate and/or disruptive behavior. Brief clapping is permissible at the end of a speaker's comments.
  • Council Work Session or public hearing attendees (audience) should refrain from private conversation during meetings.
  • Council Work Session or public hearing attendees (audience) should come and go as necessary from meeting space in the least disruptive manner as possible.
  • No campaign placards, banners, or signs will be permitted in the City Council Chambers or Committee Room. Other signage is permitted except signs which violate the Rules of Decorum or that block the view of other attendees.
  • Exhibits, displays, and visual aids used in connection with presentations to the City Council are permitted. Video presentations requested by citizens as visual aids may not be broadcast over cable television due to technological challenges.
It is the intent of council to maintain order and enforce Rules of Decorum for its meetings. Disregard of these rules will be met with the following consequences:
  1. The presiding officer will identify out loud the out-of-compliance behavior and request for the behavior to stop.
  2. The presiding officer, City Clerk or designee will read out loud the relevant “rule of decorum.”
  3. If the behavior continues, the microphone provided for the speaker will be switched off.
  4. If the behavior continues, the offending individual or party will be escorted out of City Hall by the police officer on duty for the meeting.
All other municipal or state laws and enforcements will apply.