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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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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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