Last Meeting Went Off Course, Mayor Says; Public Comment Rules to be Enforced

Elkton Town Hall – Jan. 6: — When Mayor Joseph Fisona kicked off the first session of 2010 by reading a prepared statement outlining rules for public input he surprised a lot of people, including some commissioners.  “Since the last meeting went off course” procedures are going to be enforced, he explained.  Citizens offering remarks must sign in prior to the call to order and limit comments to two to five minutes, as specified by the town code.

Seeking an explanation Commissioner Givens inquired:  “Wait a minute I know you run the meeting and I’m not trying to put you on the spot, but what are you talking about?”   “It’s so we can have a little order,” was the reply.  When he wondered what would happen if a citizen missed the sign in sheet, Commissioner Jablonski, noting that enforcement would improve the sessions, suggested placing a large poster outside the room.  “We’re having people come to the meetings and we don’t want to discourage them.  If the meeting is run by the presiding officer, he can manage it.  I don’t care who it is, if they’re going to come to a meeting, I’d want them to have the opportunity to speak,” Commissioner Givens added.  The subject continued for a few more minutes until Commissioner Givens said, “I’ll say this, if you’re going to go by that you need to go through the code and follow everything along the line.”

The audience was intensely interested in Mayor Fisona’s announcement and hushed murmuring could be heard as people whispered reactions to each other.  A couple of citizens were heard softly saying you don’t even know what they’re discussing until it’s over.

Once the officials concluded all their business, the last item for the evening was the public remarks section.  Pleased be advised you’re out there on the World Wide Web and we are watching and people expect you to be professionals, was one.  “Sometimes you got to keep the truth in the matter.  Because you’re on the web you can’t keep it fake. You’ve got to have discussions to make decisions.  Keep it real,” another urged.

Former five-term Mayor James Crouse had practical suggestions for the political leaders.  “You vote on things and the first time a citizen hears about it is when you vote.  One thing that would be helpful is you might discuss it at one meeting and vote at another. Give people a chance to view it on the web or whatever, but give people a chance to take part before you vote.”  With that the meeting adjourned.

Related Links on this subject

Links of Interest on This Subject

Editorial:  To Help Citizens Participate in Local Government, Publish Workshop Agendas

The Challenge of Staying Informed About Public Business in Elkton

Blogger’s Note: As soon as E-Span, the Town of Elkton’s Official You-Tube Channel, streams the video clip of this meeting, we’ll link to the popular video service  since it is helpful for citizens to hear the discussion directly.


5 responses to “Last Meeting Went Off Course, Mayor Says; Public Comment Rules to be Enforced

  1. limiting public comment is as old as the republic. Using antiquated rules to do it is not new either. It is usually a sign of fear. Mayor Frisona may be afraid of the competition…and there is alot for his job.

  2. Thomas Garrett:

    Prior to this announcement, Elkton already made it difficult for citizens to stay informed and participate.

    At about one-half of their meetings, citizens aren’t allowed to comment. The only one where they take comments is in the regular monthly meeting and that has always been at the end, after everything is done. These restrictions just make it a little harder.

    We think former Mayor Crouse and Commissioner Givens had it right. Make sure people know what you’re voting on ahead of time so they’re informed. Then let the presiding officer run the meeting. Typically at an Elkton meeting there’s only three or so citizens waiting to comment. But if there’s a large crowd then adjust your rules.

    As for the sign-in, we see the logic of that, but why not allow the sheet to stay open until the public comments section arrives. They’re both correct in that you will hear things and want to comment on them. Why close the sheet out as the meeting starts?

    One of the reasons a commissioner stated they wanted to go on You-Tube was to help keep citizens informed. That is a good idea, but work on the basics. It’s already over when it’s streamed on You-Tube. If that’s the objective put lots more sunshhine on the process so that peole can watch it on the world wide web and participate in the process.

    Then if someone gts out of order, rule them out at that time.

  3. Hey Joe after the people got a chance to tell you what they thought about this, then you say the meeting went off course. Course you didn’t let them have a chance to say anything until you politicans approved it. If you had let them say something before you voted, it might have helped. But Now you say the meetings off course. Barely have a chance to speak in Elkton before and only after politicans approve something.
    Joe you watching out for us, right.

  4. Watching Joe:

    The way Elkton manages its public comments process does create a challenge, threre’s no doubt about that. People typially don’t get a chance to provide input while the subject is under consideration. It’s only after the board makes its decision that they get a chance to comment, in many cases. That isn’t helpful at all.

  5. Pingback: Another Legal Proceeding Filed Against the Mayor & Commissioners of Elkton « Someone Noticed

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