But Rediger said Tuesday he is mindful of public perception and remains ready to revert to the long-standing policy of having a time set aside for public discussion on nonagenda items, should residents see the move as an attempt to quash public discourse.
"In no way do we want to give the impression that we don't want input from our citizens," Rediger said. "We're a little bit at risk for that. But if the citizens think that's what we're doing, we can always switch back."
Starting at its next meeting Sept. 7, public comments on items not on the agenda will be heard during the council's regularly scheduled study sessions, which take place at 5 p.m., two hours before the 7 p.m. meeting. Unlike council meetings, study sessions are not televised on the city's cable-access channel.
"We're not trying to shut anybody out," Rediger said. "They'll still be able to speak, but it will be at the study sessions, if they're talking about items that aren't on the agenda."
Moving those nonagenda discussions would serve two purposes, Rediger said: It would allow the council and city staff an opportunity to research a resident's issue before public discussion as well as discourage political candidates and others from showing up simply to get on television.
The July 6 meeting offered two possible examples when Cape Girardeau County Commission candidates Jay Purcell and Pat Wissman spoke during the time allotted for items not on the agenda. Purcell spoke about past lawsuits and council actions that he felt weren't city government issues. He also brought in a cameraman to record his talk for broadcast on his website. Wissman spoke about his support of the effort to bring a casino to Cape Girardeau.
While Purcell did not return phone calls Tuesday, Wissman said he was not seeking television time and in no way considered his appearance as a campaign move.
"The council told me it might look that way, but I was not using it that way," he said. "I am in favor of Cape Girardeau getting a casino, and there was a lot of people saying what a bad thing it would be. It was my chance to offer the other side."
Having said that, Wissman said he thinks it's a bad idea to keep public comment of any kind limited at a public meeting, pointing out that the county commission allows for such comments at the end of its meetings. County commission meetings are not televised.
"These discussions need to be out in the public eye," Wissman said. "That's the way it should be."
Several council members said, however, they agreed with Rediger's decision and didn't see it as a move to quiet public discussion.
"Sometimes the same person comes up and talks about items not on the agenda," said council member Kathy Swan. "It happens meeting after meeting. Under the new policy, discussion would start at the study session and allow us to then come up with a plan to address someone's concerns. Then an item can be put on the agenda and there can be public discussion."
Council member Debra Tracy has already heard from constituents who are concerned about the new policy.
"But we're trying to find something that works," she said. "People just have to get used to it. I hope people don't see it as a discouragement to speak. They'll still have an opportunity to speak. We're just trying to find a better process that can lead to more productive meetings so that everyone is well-informed."
401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO