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In 2018 I would dare to say
that literally no one knew the Commissioners were revamping your
speaking rights when they passed a measure 1-11-18 that took
away nearly every rule they were required to follow and
tightened restrictions on residents. They did this on a
packed meeting day with no prior Committee meeting, right after
the holidays and while everyone was focused on the YMCA - and
with Manager Manfredi completely misrepresenting what they were
doing ( knowing that he written details were well buried). Those
kinds of actions are exactly why we need better speaking rules
---- and Commissioners that hear us !
Nearly every other Township has a far better method of
interacting with their residents ..... In Abington, we are still
fighting for very basic rights.
This is being hastily done - I will revise soon - but here is an
idea of just a few of the things we are asking for --- and
have been...for a decade
PLEASE PUT UNDERSTANDING AS A PRIORITY OVER CLOCK WATCHING
" or other reasons for curtailment . Allow residents to
re-explain what may have been misunderstood or ask for
clarifications in a response .
If they did not know an earlier segment was the place to
address a concern, allow the concern or comment anyway, and help
them understand where it might better have been brought.
PLEASE AFFORD RESIDENTS A BRIEF ANSWER TO A QUESTION
WHENEVER ONE IS KNOWN
offer a longer or more thorough answer later
if one cannot
be had during the meeting
PLEASE DO NOT INTERRUPT speakers :Let them
speak as you would like to be allowed to speak
- but if they
are timed they must be allowed to interrupt an official who
might be using up all their speaking time with a longer than
PLEASE ELIMINATE THE "SIGN UP FORM"
IN THE LOBBY
- If someone doesn't sign up and then hears something
important - the sheet gives the false impression they can't
speak unless they signed up. Instead of the sign up,
have a sheet
instructing residents that there will be a place
where they will be asked for their comments and that they
have 3 minutes and that they may comment again at the end on any
topic. Let them know they have a guaranteed
right to speak
( Currently they often
don't even see the form, let alone know how to use it .
PLEASE ALLoW RESIDENTS TO COMMENT AT THE BEGINNING
OF A MEETING.
They should be allowed their 3 minutes on any, open
topic at the beginning, or at the end as they see fit.
Some have to leave early . If they wish to comment on an item
when it comes up for the vote, they can be asked to save theri
comment til then - but some may want to leave early. It is
a great disrespect to residents to require them to wait 3 hours
to speak to you for 3 minutes.
DISCUSSION - IT IS OFTEN THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING
- most all other township engage in discussion freely with
residents. It is vital for understanding. Please stop calling it
"debate" and understand that it is part of a healty process.
PLEASE SHOW HOW EACH COMMISSIONER VOTED - a show of hands is the
only way we can tell
our Commissioners are representing us . They should leave them
up long enough to know who was aye and who was nay
PLEASE DO NOT require
down once they ask a
question - allow them to
hear better by being closr, see the faces and the lips of
those they are dialoguing with and allow that they may
have a clarification if a question or comment has been
misunderstood. These things help prevent misunderstandings
PLEASE DO NOT shorten
the brief 3 minutes residents are afforded
in any other way
as by interrupting
PLEASE DO NOT
comment in a
way that negates or changes speakers remarks at all
if you are the chair
PLEASE DO NOT allow anyone to negate speakers
remarks with out offer a brief 30 second rebuttal from the
speaker to provide
PLEASE DO NOT discredit
the speaker - or "undo" their point after they have left the
podium and can no longer
speak or offer a rebuttal ( the chair should never be
entering the conversation - if he wants to enter the
conversation the co-chair or vice-chair should take the
leadership role. .
PLEASE ALLOW RESIDENTS AT A FULL BOARD
MEETING TO ALSO
3 MINUTES AFTER AN AGENDA ITEM IS PRESENTED
but before the vote. Residents often
first learn about an issue when they see it on tv or hear about
it after the Committee meeting. They should not be first hearing
about it AFTER their right to speak on it is exhausted.
RESIDENTS TO RESERVE LEFT OVER TIME
-If they have not used their 3 minutes – please allow them
briefly back to the podium.
RESIDENTS TO HAVE OTHER RESIDENTS REPRESENT THEM
by reading what they wrote if they are unable to be in
PLEASE ALLOW A RESIDENT TO APPOINT ANOTHER ABINGTON RESIDENT TO
SPEAK FOR THEM
if they are also in attendance.
PLEASE GET RID OF THE CONSENT AGENDA
- residents have
never been asked if THEY consent to these items being dispensed
of with no sunlight on even what the topic is.
COMMISSIONERS & RESIDENTS SHOULD TREAT ONE ANOTHER POLITELY
Residents shall be treated with the same courtesy as staff and
SEE THAT ANSWERS AND COMMENTS BY COMMISSIONERS shall not
be counted as part of a resident’s time allotment.
PLEASE ALLOW RESIDENTS TO COMPLETE THEIR SENTENCES OR THOUGHTS.
INCLUDE ON THE SPEAKING RULES SHEET a link to the
Sunshine Laws, to Robert’s Rules
Of Order, to the Right to Know Laws and information on how to
contact Commissioners and staff to obtain information about a
matter in the Township.
Please especially include the
paragraph that allows a resident the right to bring to the
Board’s attention a perceived violation of the Sunshine Act.
Please also include where they can find the video’s agendas and
other Public Comment information on the township website
Some History on the Development of the Current
Regulations ( incomplete - will try to find
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 and knopw that you have to squeeze everything
into 3 min. you might do OK . It is sometimes is sufficient to express
your view. But most residents are not prepared to
compactly present their case. And so
this has been at times problematic as they are cut off. Or also
problematic as some ( who bring up unhappy points ) are cut off
while others ( who praise the commissioners ) are given far more
time. . 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. This while people are prevented from
discussing in depth flooding and fire safety violations and
other serious issues.
Eventually, the plan that was set allowed that residents
could speak at a Committee meeting for 3 min. after
any agenda item was introduced ( and before the vote ) and also for 3 min. at the end of each
Committee topic on any open issue that was not an agenda item
but related to that topic . At full Board Meetings, residents
could chose to have 3 minutes of open topic comments either at
the beginning or the end of the meeting as well as 3 min. after
any agenda item was introduced ( and before the vote ) At one
point they also could speak at full Board meetings at the end of
each section with 3 minutes of open comment -- but
that right was very soon removed. Again exceptions are made for some and not granted to others in regard
to these rules.
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 what the pklan was. Citizens also
asked to have the right to speak before the meeting, but not in
conjunction with their other rights taken away as Manager
LeFevre was trying to do. The
Commissioners did not implement changes at this time
Some 2012 points as we
were formulating new rules
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 .
2014 More rights eroded
2016 Commissioners took away
more speaking rights . No more comment after each item at Full
Board meetings - Now, if you just learned about an issue
when you heard the issue at a Committee meeting on TV , your
ability to comment is largely gone
2018 Major rights eroded --- Without
a proper explanation at all & buried in page 79 of an enormous
agenda ( without the summary at top as it usually is )
they passed new and despicable rules . For a year they heard me
saying that they had improperly listed speaking rules on the
agenda - and not a single Commissioner, manager, staff person or
other said to me, "no - they're correct. We changed them when no
one was paying attention" -- and Mr Manfredi falsely
described what they were doing on 1-11-18 when they were
changing them . This was incredible decit . I have yet to find a
single person who said his or her commissioner alerted them to
the upcoming change --- even though they knew we had petitions
and passionate testimony the last time they tried that.
In fact, what they did is ...they took
away all rules that they themselves had to
follow - and gave the chair of any meeting tthe right to change
any rules or procedures on the fly. That is the wequivalent of
have NO RULES at all for themselves - while they increased the
restrictions on resident somment . The only theing ethey
had to abide by was the Sunshine act and the Commonwealth
laws - which they are counting on NO RESIDENTS TO KNOW.
And in the first meeting that we learned about this 7-11-19
they violated the Sunshine act . Amazing.
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