The public comments section of the Apopka City Council meetings allows citizens to have a voice in how their City is run. It also allows the Council to get feedback on the issues that are important to its residents and calculate those into their ultimate decisions. Without public comment, government could be carried out without input from those who will be most affected by them.
Having a robust system in place for communicating what is being done, as well as connecting with future stakeholders in the broader community, can serve as a device to keep government on track. When public concerns are addressed at the outset, and then revisited at every stage, it makes the completion many times more effective once it’s launched.
Public comments can shape the issue, and move the City Council to take action:
Sometimes, however, groups of public commenters can attempt to make a point, but enter the world of the bizarre:
Other times, public comments can take on a personal nature or simply be a place to vent or scold the Council or an individual council member:
They are, in many ways, a double-edged sword.
Obviously, there has to be rules and limitations to public comments, such as time limits and subject matter. But to what end? How much restriction is too much?
In 2016, Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer attempted to alter public comments by limiting speaking time to three minutes (from its current four minutes) and to limit public comments to 30 minutes per meeting. Neither of those changes found their way into Resolution 2016-16, and public comments have remained essentially the same as they were six years ago.
But on the agenda for the May 4th City Council meeting is Ordinance 2931 - addressing public participation in City Council and other board meetings. And while modest changes were attempted in 2016, these are substantive and with language that threatens arrest to those causing disturbance or interruption of the City Council.
In the agenda packet, the summary of Ordinance 2931 states:
"Rules of decorum for city council meetings have been provided pursuant to Resolution 2016-16. The attached ordinance codifies rules of decorum for city council meetings, bringing the City in line with various other municipalities and counties that have codified the rules of decorum.
Substantively, Ordinance No. 2931 addresses public participation in city council and other city board meetings. The Ordinance retains the “Public Comment Period,” but regulates the manner in which public comment may occur, limiting the comments to items not on the agenda for that day’s meetings, limiting comments to the council or board in its entirety, thereby disallowing direct comments at individual council or board members, and requires commenters who wish to provide additional media displays (either audio or video) to submit the media to the City Clerk at forty-eight (48) hours prior to the council or board meeting so that the City may review the media files for viruses or other dangers to the city’s computer network."
The ordinance goes on to add rules to the way the public comments portion of the meeting would be conducted. Among them are:
The following requirements apply to all speakers:
The ordinance proposal comes on the heels of several meetings where public comments were directed at specific members of the City Council. If Ordinance #2931 is succesful at its first reading Wednesday, it would return on Wednesday, May 18th for a second reading and vote for adoption.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here