Saturday, August 29, 2009

5th Question: Speaking Limit

Here is the fifth question and responses:

Do you favor continuing to limit speakers to 5 minutes each during the commission's public comment period?

Mike Witsoe:Yes, I do, if they ramble on like I sometimes do. However, when professional, educated individuals have made a presentation to explain/question/qualify or to present a particular subject/point of view that is of public interest and detail, the time should be extended. The public comment period is for people to express their concerns, interests, fears and their passion. The public comment period should be earlier in the meeting so as to not force older concerned citizens to wait through the b.s. Public comment is the only true voice of the city's citizens.

Bill Bronson:Yes. It is a reasonable limit on comments made at the end of our commission meetings. I have yet to hear anyone that has come before the commission at the end of the meeting to offer a comment that cannot make their point in 5 minutes or less. The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that reasonable time limits are perfectly acceptable, and we should continue this rule for the public comment section of the agenda. It is important to note that the commission does not limit the time on statements made during public hearings or inquiries about proposed resolutions and the consent agenda.

Sandra Guynn:No, I do not favor limiting speakers to a 5-minute time limit. The mayor controls the meeting and, from the outset, can remind folks that in the interest of others, comments should be limited. If a speaker ignores that request, the mayor, as the chair of the meeting, can graciously tell them to conclude their remarks.

John Hubbard:The limit should be raised to 10 minutes. It should only be broken if the speaker is commenting on something of significance and their contribution is beneficial to the matter at hand.

Michael Winters:Anyone speaking before the commission should be able to say all he or she needs or wants to say in 5 minutes or less. The mayor or mayor pro tem should control the commission public comment period with professionalism and stay with the speaker's First Amendment rights. That does not allow the speaker to abuse those rights.

Ed McKnight:I do not agree with the 5-minute rule and I do not agree with the tightening of the muzzle on the public by the new decision that citizens are no longer allowed to ask questions during the public comment period.

John Rosenbaum:Yes.

Donna Zook:I do not believe in a strict 5-minute rule during the public comment period. However, I also believe that there is a respectful and dignified way of informing the individual speaker of the amount of time he or she is taking in order to accommodate all individuals who wish to speak. This is an issue of the parliamentary ability of the mayor.

Fred Burow:Yes. If 5 minutes are not enough, it can always be changed later. Unless you have some kind of a limit, some people get off track and ramble on and on.

Kathleen Z. Gessaman:I don't think a 5-minute limit is necessary if the commission's presiding officer follows Robert's Rules of Order, which provide the flexibility to limit the length of discussion when circumstances warrant such a limitation. However, this flexibility should not be abused just so the commission can wrap up their meetings quickly. If a popular topic encourages many citizens to participate in government, then the mayor or mayor pro tem could announce a 5-minute time limit per speaker so everyone has a chance to speak. The issue really is more one of appropriate leadership than arbitrary time limits.

Robert G. Jones:I do favor a time limit on speaking during the commission's comment period. I remain very open to what that time limit would be.

Rolland Leitheiser: I do not favor continuing the 5-minute limit. There has to be a reasonable amount of time for the public to comment.

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