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Secrets of Accessing City Commission Business

This article appeared in Issue 2 of The Northeast Tennessee Organizer.

From infrastructure to public services to development, local elected leaders regularly make decisions that impact our day to day lives. Public meetings of these bodies are one of the few formal opportunities we have to speak before these decisions are made.

If you live in Johnson City, read below for how to access agenda packets and meetings. If you live elsewhere and want to share the steps pertaining to your local government, write them up and email

The Agenda Packet

This packet is full of information about the decisions the board is considering. Even if you can’t attend meetings, agenda packets make it possible to keep up with what’s going on.
Here are different ways we tried before we found Johnson City’s packets:
Google Search – The top result, “Agendas & Minutes – Johnson City, Tennessee,” hasn’t been updated since 2020. The page has no link to current agendas. Intentionally or not, this page can be somewhat of a decoy.

City Website Home Page – The home page has upcoming events and a link to a full calendar. City commission meetings are on the calendar. The agenda packet is not.

City Website Live Streaming Page – There are agendas on this page! Unfortunately, it’s just agendas. The supporting documents that provide context and details are missing.

City Website Government Page – Click “Government” in the menu. You get a page that says “Please use the links on the left navigation bar to choose a service.” There is no functioning left navigation bar. If you go back to the main menu and hit the arrow on the far right of the “Government” bar, you’ll see “City Commission” as an option. Clicking that will bring you to the website that has the agenda packets. That’s right: the agenda packet is not on the city’s website.

To get an agenda that includes links to all relevant documents, go to From there:

  • If you’re on a phone, scroll scroll scroll to Upcoming Meetings. If you’re on a larger screen, look through the right-hand column.
  • Find the upcoming City Commission meeting. If the meeting is underlined, click to go to the agenda page. This agenda includes links to all the relevant documents. Huzzah! If the meeting is not underlined, the agenda isn’t yet available.

The Meeting Itself

The Johnson City Board of Commissioners meets the first and third Thursday of each month at 6 pm. This meeting is held in the Commission Chambers of the Municipal and Safety building at 601 E. Main Street. If you want to speak during public comment, you have to attend in person. Some localities air their meetings over Zoom. This extends public comment accessibility to people with disabilities and to people who lack transportation or childcare. It’s unfortunate that Johnson City doesn’t offer that level of access.

Another thing you need to do if you want to speak during public comment is submit this form at least 12 hours before the meeting: In our experience, the Commission has allowed people to speak regardless, but they can invoke the requirement at any time, so: better safe than silenced.

If you don’t plan to speak, it’s still worthwhile to attend meetings in person when you can. The public in attendance shows leaders that the people are paying attention.

If you can’t make it in person, the city does live stream their meetings on their YouTube channel, “Streaming Johnson City.” The volume isn’t as good as we’d like, and the city doesn’t provide closed captioning. You can, however, access recordings of previous meetings on their channel.

By keeping up with city meetings, working-class residents are able to discover and expose policies that favor corporations over everyday citizens. They also provide an opportunity to directly confront city officials about issues like housing, transportation, and development. Meetings can also be a space for people to connect, share concerns, and build a collective voice to advocate for systemic change. If you’re interested in attending Johnson City Board of Commissioners meetings with us, email

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