Monday, May 8, 2017

Public comment at City Commission meetings: Two minutes or three minutes is the wrong question.

Public comment at Lake Worth Commission meetings used to be three minutes until things got so out of hand it was reduced to two minutes. Don’t remember who brought this up at the time but believe our mayor then was Jeff Clemens, now State Senator Clemens.

The question now should be about CIVILITY and what to do when INCIVILITY occurs — and whether there needs to be public discussion on how to act in a civil manner at public meetings — not whether the public gets two minutes or three to speak. Here is an example of uncivil and un-charming public comment:

“If a boat-load of refugees came across on our shore here [Lake Worth’s Beach] how would we feel? I’d be ashamed to say that we’d probably take out guns and get rid of ‘em.
—Quote by JoAnn Golden (video below) at public comment, Lake Worth City Commission.

You may recall when JoAnn Golden (a former commissioner) who, at the 40 second mark praises the City of West Palm Beach for all their incredible work to help the homeless there, then at the 1:15 mark goes off the rails with a terribly unfair and insulting characterization of the caring and giving people of Lake Worth:

Now for an example of civil and respectful public comment.

Below is an instructional video, an excellent example how to give public comment at a City Commission meeting. Note how City resident Kathy Turk approached issues of importance to her. She didn’t get angry. She didn’t point fingers. And she didn’t put anyone “on the hot seat”. Read the bullet list and then watch the video for yourself:
  • At the 10:50 mark (click play and go to the minute marks) she begins her comment at the January 10th City Commission meeting.
  • At the 11:50 mark she begins speaking about the issue of unanswered emails and phone calls.
  • At the 12:50 mark about the pay increase for elected officials, she says, “. . . the pay is well worth the hours you put in.” She should know having 25 years of experience in Human Resources.
Hope you find this video helpful:

So. As to the question: Should public comment be two minutes or go back to three minutes once again? Or try an experiment. Try three minutes of public comment for a month and see how it works out. Then come back and address the issue once again.

On the upside, most of the ‘Weetha Peebull’ crowd doesn’t attend Commission meetings any more. That all stopped after City Manager Michael Bornstein installed cameras in the chambers in 2012.

Stay tuned. This item may come before the Commission at the next meeting on May 16th. It will be interesting to see how civil and courteous the case is made for three minutes in the span of two minutes. Or if some will take the opportunity to point fingers in the most un-charming and uncivil of ways.

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