If I want to testify what should I do?
The public hearing is your opportunity to present your opinion, relevant facts, and findings on the matter under consideration. To have the most impact your testimony should be truthful, concise, and include any suggestions that you believe should be considered prior to any official action. Testimony can be made in person or in written form though returned mail-out notice forms, letters, or e-mail. Appearing in person usually will have the most impact, but requires the patience to wait, often for hours, for the public hearing on the item to be opened. There is no way to accurately predict the length of a public hearing, as length will depend on the complexity of issues as well as the number of persons who wish to testify.
Organizing your presentation
Your presentation will be restricted to a limited amount of time in accordance with the hearing rules and tape recorded so having your message organized is essential. The following are some things to consider when preparing your testimony:
- If you have never been to a public hearing before attend one prior to the date your item is to appear to observe what happens.
- Prepare an outline of what you would like to say. Reading written testimony is also an option.
- Be sure to identify yourself with your name and, if any, your affiliation with a relevant community council, committee, or group.
- Most hearings do not require that persons testifying be sworn. Nevertheless, it is expected that testimony will be truthful.
- If you have expertise in a particular field relevant to your testimony advise the hearing body of that expertise. For example, "I am a licensed PE (professional engineer) practicing civil engineering and designing highways." Be aware that through court actions, the hearing body must give more weight to the testimony of an expert in his/her scientific or technical area over a lay person's testimony in that same subject area.
- If pictures or drawings will help explain the issue, have them available either in form all can see or in quantities to give to each Board, Commission or Assembly member. Other types of media can be used, but you may have to make your own arrangements for any special equipment such as TVs and projectors. The Chair may keep your visual aids as part of the official record of the proceedings.
- Back up your testimony with factual evidence if it is available. Avoid exaggerations. If you are speculating say so. If your testimony is your opinion let the hearing body know.
- Try to present information that has not been presented by others.
- If you have an alternate solution to the matter under review suggested it with your reasons in support.
- In your presentation do not attack any person or group on a personal level. Personalities and motives are not at issue.
Public hearings are official meetings. Such hearings must be fair and impartial. It is important that proponents and opponents to a particular matter conduct themselves with respect and restraint. The Chair is in charge of the public hearing. It is the job of the Chair to make sure that anyone who desires to present testimony has an opportunity to do so comfortably. The Chair can not allow disruptive behavior, cheering, booing, clapping, waving placards, or anything else that would have the effect of intimidating a person from testifying.
If the audience at a hearing exceeds the seating capacity of the room the Chair or the Fire Marshall will direct that those persons without a seat to temporarily leave the room. As a seat becomes available people will be allowed to return to the hearing room so that all have an opportunity.