Written by Joe Rizza Friday, 25 September 2009 00:00
Public Comments Back on TV, But…
Residents Bill Urianek and Sal Cataldo have been clamoring for public comments during Village of Mineola Board of Trustees meetings to be put back on cable access television after the village board yanked them after they felt certain comments made by some residents were inappropriate to be broadcast on TV. Mineola Mayor Jack M. Martins decided that public comments would be broadcast again. However, the board adopted rules of procedure for meetings, including guidelines made for public comments during meetings.
One of the changes involved in the meeting procedures is that agendas will now be available for the work sessions, which are held prior to the village meetings. According to the guidelines, adopted unanimously by the board last week, the agenda for the meetings will be prepared by noon on the day of the meeting.
The rules of procedure contain a drastic change in the public comment segment of the village board meetings. The guidelines state that all speakers have to complete a sign-in form requesting an opportunity to speak during the meeting, including the speaker’s name and address as well as the topic relating to village business the speaker wishes to talk about.
The guidelines also state that topics must be limited to those that pertain to the Village of Mineola and residents have a five-minute time limit to speak on each topic. In past meetings, some residents have spoken about issues related to the school district, town and county. At a recent meeting, Mr. Cataldo spoke about the national health care issue.
In cases where the proposed topic may not appear to pertain to the Village of Mineola, the proposed speaker should include a short explanation of the relevancy to the Village of Mineola, according to the guidelines.
In addition, the guidelines state that a speaker could be deemed to be out of order by the mayor or acting mayor if he or she speaks on issues unrelated to village business or if a speaker fails to observe “commonly accepted rules of courtesy, decorum, dignity, civility and good taste.” Those who are out of order in three or more meetings may have their privileges of speaking at further meetings revoked.
Mayor Martins and the board of trustees will use the guidelines beginning next month and will try them out for 90 days while televising the entire public meetings.
Village Trustee Paul Pereira, who conducted research concerning the guidelines, said he believes they are consistent with other public entities.
Urianek, who has been attending village meetings since Stanley Krause was the mayor of Mineola, is considering no longer attending public meetings. “The rules are going to make the meetings shorter because people aren’t going to go,” he said.
Resident Dennis Walsh, who also attends meetings regularly, believes the guidelines are a good idea and will improve the meetings. “I think the five-minute rule is long overdue,” Walsh said, adding, “Matters that are germane to the village are what people are there for.”
Walsh believes it’s unfair that residents who go to meetings because they have pressing matters having to do with their quality of life in the village have to listen to speakers go off on tangents about topics having nothing to do with Mineola.