The latest dustup from the dais of the Board of Manatee County Commissioners brings to mind an old saying: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Elected officials and politicians should expect to be recipients of pointed remarks from the public, especially at open meetings that allow citizen comments. Time limits on public responses should be expected, too, else meetings get out of hand with citizens going on and on with political statements and personal grievances.
A suggestion by county commission Chairman Larry Bustle that individuals be limited to a total of 10 minutes per meeting -- while maintaining the current three-minute cutoff per single agenda item -- did not gain traction among his fellow commissioners. Rules do not set a maximum time span per meeting.
"Just let people speak," Commissioner John Chappie said during Thursday's meeting.
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Yes, indeed, citizens should not be muzzled.
Bustle got mixed up in clashes with several speakers recently, with one last week ending when the chairman had the microphone turned off after a resident surpassed the three-minute limit and kept talking.
Then Bustle went out of bounds by calling in a sheriff's deputy to escort the speaker from the podium and threatening to ban him from future commenting after the two argued over the rules on addressing the commission.
Commissioner Vanessa Baugh described the heated exchange thusly: "I think it's awful."
And ugly, too.
County Attorney Mickey Palmer told Bustle he stepped over the line in trying to silence both men.
We suggest the chairman accept the heat graciously next time. There's bound to be a next time.