Public comment returns to St. George City Council meetings — with new rules

The mayor ‘paused’ such comments this month after disruptions and accusations of being ‘communists.’

St. George’s mayor will again allow public input at City Council meetings beginning in July, after she halted such comments earlier this month, saying they were disruptive and largely “devolved into statements unrelated to City business,” according to a statement released Tuesday.

Mayor Michele Randall announced her initial decision to restrict public input at a May 4 council meeting. Public comment will now resume July 4. Those wishing to make a comment must follow new rules the mayor outlined in her Tuesday statement.

Randall and others had argued that unruly commenters had interfered with the council’s work. In April, for instance, a large group wearing “Protect Utah’s Kids” messaging attended a City Council meeting to protest drag shows, ridicule transgender people and accuse the mayor and other city leaders of trying to make “St. George the drag queen hub of the West.”

Drag shows have become a contentious issue for the southern Utah city after HBO Max’s “We’re Here” drag show filmed there in June 2022, with the city council recently voting to deny a special event permit for an all-ages drag show at a local park. The Southern Utah Drag Stars, the group that was denied the permit, sued the city and its leaders in federal court on Tuesday, alleging discrimination.

[Read more: St. George leaders reject permit for another drag show and a food event]

According to the mayor’s statement Tuesday, those wishing to comment at City Council meetings must live in St. George and provide their name and address to the city recorder. The public cannot comment on “any agenda item or pending land use application” — just “City business.”

No more than 10 people can speak at any meeting, with a limit of two minutes of speaking time per person. Commenters must be “respectful” and not attack others, as well as refrain from using “obscene of profane language,” the statement read.

If more than 10 people want to speak, officials will choose 10 people at random. Those selected will not be able to offer comment at future meetings for three months.

Those who disrupt meetings with “undue applause, jeering, uninvited comments, or other protests” will be asked to leave City Council chambers, the statement said.

The city will also accept written comments from St. George residents, even those who’ve already spoken at a council meeting that quarter. Comments may be hand-delivered or mailed to the city recorder at 175 E. 200 North, St. George, UT 84770, or emailed at public-comment@sgcity.org. Residents may also submit comments on the city website at sgcity.org/contact/submitpubliccomment.

In her statement announcing the new comment policy, Randall noted public input at council meetings aren’t required by Utah law. That “public input” differs from “public hearings,” which are required by law.

“As we enter into the budget approval season in the next few weeks, it is crucial to be able to devote as much time as possible to that process,” she said in the statement. “There will be a public hearing specifically on the budget prior to adoption in June.”