Council adds to public speaking policy

Jan. 21, 2013 @ 03:17 PM

Trinity residents will have to abide by a new public comment policy when speaking at February’s City Council meeting.
At its recent meeting, Trinity City Council voted 7-1 to leave its current public comment policy the same and add that speakers should not discuss issues that concern the candidacy of any person seeking public office.
The motion was made by Councilwoman Karen Bridges and seconded by Councilwoman Debbie Frazier.
“I thought the policy was something that council might consider, and I presented that to them,” Mayor Carlton Boyles said. “There was never any intent for any citizen to be limited in speech. At no time was council supposed to take it to a vote, but it was to be discussed at the retreat.”
Bridges thinks the policy the city has is just fine if it is carried out correctly and that residents can read the agenda to inform themselves of the policy, she said.
“I cannot see any point in limiting it to 45 minutes and think three minutes is ample. Another thing that has concerned me is that there has been some shifting in how this applied. In past meetings, it has been said that you can speak at either the public comment section or at public hearing. That is not the way it’s written,” Bridges said. “The only thing that I am in favor of adding is that we don’t have people who are candidates or want to speak for candidates. I don’t agree.”
Councilwoman Kristen Varner is opposed to the change because it is not clear if the policy prohibits speeches concerning candidacies or seated council members.
“I do not think that you should limit someone’s right to talk about our candidacy or what they think about us,” Varner said. “Depending on how you read it, it could be assumed that it is referring to how someone speaks to someone on council.”
In other business, council also voted, unanimously, to leave the committee appointments in the mayor’s hands. The decision comes after Councilwoman Linda Gantt told Boyles she would like to have Councilman Ed Lohr and Councilwoman Frazier put back on the city’s personnel committee because they are working on the personnel manual. Some council member were upset about not being consulted on recent committee appointments, which, according to the city ordinance, are made by the mayor.
The new committee includes Gantt, Lohr and Councilman Tommy Johnson.
That led to some council members wanting to amend the ordinance to give the full council the authority to appoint committee members. They asked city staff to review the matter and bring the results back.
“I have reviewed everything that I have done as your mayor with respect to appointing people to a committee,” Boyles said. “I have completed that task four times. That is what it means to faithfully execute the duty of the office, and I am good at doing that. I have no agenda except one thing, that is to put people in a position that will do the business of this city and to do it in a professional way.”
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New public comment policy for Trinity Council meetings

Citizens are invited to address the City Council on issues that are not listed on the agenda. Residents may speak on agenda items at the time the issue is discussed by the Council. Please sign up to speak prior to the meeting. When the mayor calls your name, please step to the lectern and state your name and address for the record. Remarks are limited to three minutes per speaker. Speakers are encouraged to select a spokesperson if several people plan to make similar points. Speakers should not discuss issues that concern the candidacy of any person seeking public office.