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  Public Comment

         First and foremost - all citizens should know, NO they do not have to SIGN UP to speak.  The sign up sheet has led people to believe that  if they did not sign up, they cannot speak  - and it should be abolished altogether, since half of the residents in a meeting don't even know they just walked past a sign up sheet - or upon which page to write their name.

         Public Comment has been a real political football, with Commissioners actually campaigning on the issue, but then later trying at nearly every opportunity to reduce our rights to speak  unless there is great citizen outcry.  Our speech, especially when televised into many of our fellow residents homes or with a shareable computer link,  is an incredibly valuable tool that each Abington resident should seek to protect and to use.

     As of 9-12, although I have heard that everyone understands the current plan for what is allowed a little differently, it is my understanding that residents can speak in this manner:

They are encouraged to sign up on the sheets in the hall outside the meeting-however , as noted above, residents are not forbidden from speaking because they have not signed up and, in fact, as noted above, the sheets  frequently make things more confusing and I believe they should be abolished for that reason.  The Commissioners or a clerk could simply make understood by a "rule sheet" or orally what the speaking rules are.  They are required per the Sunshine Act  to provide for comment at public meetings.

THE RULES

Residents must state their name and address for the record before speaking ---- Yes, every time they speak.    Residents can speak at a Board of Commissioners meeting for 3 min. after any agenda item  as well as 3 min. at the end of the meeting on any topic.   At one point they were also allowed to speak for  3 min. at the end of  each Committee section .  That was then removed ---  You will see that exceptions are made for some and not granted to others in regard to these rules.

    During Committee meetings, (as opposed to the full Board meetings)  residents are able to speak for 3 min. on each agenda item and are able to speak at the end of the particular Committee segment

The Commissioners are not required to answer you ( which they like to call "debating" when they don't want to answer, but which they gladly do, when they don't mind answering. ) 

   They have also been known to hold up signs indicating  how much of your time is left.  At times, they have done this so frequently during the 3 min period of "selected" speakers that one could only interpret the action as an attempt to  "interrupt the speaker ". They continued the practice even when asked not to do so.  Many residents are quite nervous when speaking in public, and Commissioners, generally are aware of this

Given the above, it would be good for residents to hold small group discussions on  public speaking issues .

 

    Some History on the Development of the Current Regulations

In 2006, when I first began to come to  the podium, we found that meetings were run with barely a breath in between the "PW1" and "all in favor say aye". residents who had come to a meeting to express their views found that the topic had passed and was voted on before they even knew what was happening, as they were unfamiliar with the agenda and the process.  We took a great deal of time to get that sorted out and finally got them slowed down to the point of asking after each item on the agenda for comments from commissioners and then comments from staff and audience. 

   Speaking time was reduced at 1point to only 3 min. if you come well prepared, 3 min. sometimes is sufficient to express your view.  But most residents are not prepared to compactly and sourcing fully present their case.  And so this has been at times problematic.  Also problematic has been the fact that while residents are cut off from speaking about important items that impact their lives, commissioners give themselves great leeway to speak about nearly any topic they desire including their children's sports events and yes, even sorting socks. 

   Eventually, the plan that was set allowed that residents could speak at a Board of Commissioner meeting for 3 min. after any agenda item and also for 3 min. at the end of  each Committee topic as well as 3 min. at the end of the meeting on any topic.   Later the right to speak at the end of each Committee topic was removed ---  so residents were left with 3 min. before the vote on any agenda item and 3 min. at the end of the entire meeting.   You will see that exceptions are made for some and not granted to others in regard to these rules.

    During Committee meetings, residents are able to speak for 3 min. on each agenda item and are able to speak at the end of the particular Committee segment . 

 

        In  Spring  2012 , new  Manager, Michael Lefevre, proposed  that we move all public comment to the beginning of the meeting and eliminate comment during the rest of the meeting, including on agenda items after Commissioners' discussion showed us what they were intending to do.  Citizens vehemently argued for their right to continue to comment on agenda items before they were voted on and after they learned they said if you can't information from the item discussion.   Citizens also asked to have the right to speak before the meeting, but not in conjunction with their other rights taken away.   The Commissioners did not implement changes at this time

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   We welcome your comments  to share either anonymously or with your name attached with your  fellow Abington residents.   Send  any updated information, comments or questions  to: lel@abingtoncitizens.com 

 

BROKEN LINKS ALERT  

Abington Township recently completely revamped their website at the end of 2015 . All links directed to the old site were broken. We will be reinstating links as we find them and if the data is still available.  
Please  let us know if you find a broken link . Send us the name of the link and the page it is on , and if we can reinstate it, we will.

 


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