Rodney Jones escorted from city council by Bradenton Police
There has to be a better way for citizens to speak to their elected officials than giving them three minutes and then escorting them from the room or arresting them. Both of these things have happened lately in City Council and School Board chambers.
Because of Sunshine Laws, it is impossible for people to address all of an elected group at one time without showing up during official meetings. Yes, we may not want to hear everyone’s grievances aired in public. But elected officials have an obligation to listen to their constituents.
It is democracy in action for our elected leaders to listen and address issues that citizenry bring before them. How else are they to really know what’s happening in our community?
Perhaps before meeting time, an hour could be set aside for public communication. People could sign up to speak with a limit, say, of six minutes. That would allow 10 people to speak for what should be a reasonable time to communicate a concern. A warning could be given at five minutes for the person to begin concluding.
Instead of ejecting or arresting those who go over, if they do not follow the rules, just ban them from meetings for the next year. Save arrests for the violent and those who have been banned and attempt to return.
And if there is a public issue that officials know will likely raise public concern, schedule separate, longer meetings just for citizens to speak and ask questions.
Those we elect have an obligation to allow public input, and those who speak have an obligation to follow the rules for speaking in an appropriate manner. But, perhaps, three minutes and an ejection or arrest are not the best way for our leaders to represent those who elect them.