SANDPOINT, Idaho — The Sandpoint City Council in northern Idaho has voted on a compromise that allows residents who make public comments at council meetings to have their home addresses withheld to avoid possible retribution.
The council voted 4-1 last week to allow speakers to check a box to have their home address omitted from being listed in the council's minutes that is available on the city's Web site.
Sandpoint resident Sandra Deutchman told council members that that requiring addresses in the minutes would only keep residents from speaking during council meetings. The city had already been omitting the addresses of each speaker after one speaker complained earlier this year about the policy of listing home addresses.
But earlier this month Councilwoman Helen Newton proposed changing back to the old policy of posting speakers' addresses, saying it would lead to more open government.
Sandpoint Police Chief Mark Lockwood said he was against posting home addresses, however, telling council members that the safety of city residents should be the top concern in whatever decisions the council makes. Lockwood said posting addresses could put citizens at risk. Though conceding that addresses were available to the public even if they weren't posted on the Web site, he said posting them increased the risk of possible wrongdoing to a speaker who voiced support or opposition to a particular issue.
"(The information) is accessible — yes it is — but why should we serve it up on a platter?" Lockwood said.
Councilman Michael Boge countered by saying that the Sandpoint area was a safe place to live. He also said it was an important part of the discussion for those who chose to speak at meetings to reveal where they lived.
"It's important for the better good of the city to say who you are and where you're from," Boge said.
It was not clear whether any instances of retribution or intimidation had occurred.
Councilwoman Carrie Logan suggested the compromise of allowing speakers to check a box if they did not want their address included in the minutes that are put on the city's Web site, which was voted on and passed.