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City Relaxes Controversial Policy On Public Comments at Commission Meetings

New Policy Liberalizes Rules, Allows Anyone To Speak, Expands Total Time Allowed

 

Last updated 3/4/2023 at 1:59pm

Robert Connors

Area resident Bruce Francis was among those powerfully advocating for better citizen access to the commission at the January 3 meeting.

A policy change allowing increased public input reverses a controversial decision by the Lake Wales City Commission to that sharply limited public input.

The modification to a standing policy regarding public comment was approved by the City Commission Tuesday. The policy will continue to limit speakers to five minutes, and all comments to a 45-minute period, unless the commission majority to extends the period for an additional 15 minutes, the maximum allowed.

The earlier change had limited comments to only 30 minutes, and to only those residing within the city limits or owning businesses of property there, angering those in surrounding areas proposed for future annexation.

News file photo

Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson used a city commission workshop setting to convince fellow commissioners that all interested persons should be allowed to address the commission, regardless of residence address.

Twenty speakers, most strongly opposed to the limitations, managed to obtain concessions at the meeting, and the commission has now reversed some of the remaining restrictions.

The modification, proposed by Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson in a workshop discussion, won support for all five commissioners, despite the split vote that established the earlier limitations. That meeting brought a packed house crowd largely in opposition to the change.

The expanded policy allows anyone to address issues before the commission but requires that they register to speak prior to the meeting, and limits topics to those on the meeting agenda.

The speaker card also allows for the expression of written opinions for or against an agenda item in lieu of speaking, but it is not clear if those cards will be read by commissioners prior to their votes.

 
 

Reader Comments(1)

Nonanita writes:

This reversal by the commission just proves that is is important for the public to attend the commission meetings and speak truth to power and let their opinions be known.

 
 
 

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