Let the people speak their minds

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 13, 2002

And while the rooms and meals may have been a little pricey, the cost for the facilitator was, for the most part, money well spent and the event should go a long way toward unifying our city’s governing body and providing much-needed focus.

In fact, we’re disappointed that the room cost has attracted so much attention. Rooms at the Tide’s Inn are pricey, sure, and council could have accomplished everything that was accomplished at a more moderately-priced facility. Be that as it may, in the grand scheme of things, the money spent at the retreat barely registers in a city with a $200 million-plus budget.

No, if Suffolk citizens want to dis the retreat, there’s an issue that came out of it that should be providing all the fodder critics need.

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Namely, the lamebrained proposal to further restrict the ability of residents to have their opinions heard at city council meetings.

It was only about a year ago that council eliminated the early appearances portion of the meetings, at which 30 minutes was allocated prior to regular meetings for residents to speak to their elected representatives. Anyone wishing to speak now must sit through the entire agenda before having the opportunity to do so – an obvious and despicable attempt to discourage constituents from speaking out.

Now, if most of the council members get their way, after sitting through the entire meeting, citizens will have to refrain from personal attacks on council members, not speak directly to any individual member and speak only on issues. If this goes through it won’t be long before speakers will only be permitted to sing council’s praises.

It’s unfortunate that many on our city council have to be reminded that this nation’s constitution guarantees its citizens – even the rude and obnoxious ones – the right to speak their minds.

Sleepy Hole Councilwoman Linda Johnson is deserving of praise for being the lone voice opposing this dud and she should fight it at every turn. We’ll be proud to join her.