Public comment suffers in Martin due to county administrator and previous commission chairs

Attorney Sherlock’s email to the county commissioners and administrator:

Littman Sherlock & Heims P.A. lshlaw@bellsouth.net:

TO:

sheard@martin.fl.us,
efieldin@martin.fl.us,
phayes@martin.fl.us,
dsmith@martin.fl.us,
eciampi@martin.fl.us

cc: Littman Sherlock & Heims <LSHLaw@bellsouth.net>, tkryzda@martin.fl.us

Sun, Nov 20, 2011

Commissioners,

During your re-organization session on Tuesday, please consider restoring 9:05 a.m. public comment to your meeting agendas.

For many years, members of the public were able to communicate directly with all of their commissioners at the 9:05 a.m. public comment period.  The public comment agenda item, popularly known as the 9:05, was intended to foster open communication between the public and the commission.

Your agenda was changed by the administrator and previous commission chairs to eliminate this scheduled time for public comment, making it difficult or even impossible for citizens who have day jobs to attend and address you.  Paid advocates and commissioners who complain that there is only a small group of citizens who repeatedly address the commission are well aware that many citizens cannot speak at public comment because you now require them to wait as long as an hour-and-a-half after your meetings begin with absolutely no assurance that public comment will be allowed at any given time.  Residents who have to go to work are not able to wait until 10:30 a.m. or later for public comment.

“End of the meeting” public comment is now virtually non-existent as your meetings frequently end long before 5:05 p.m., again, making it impossible for many working people to participate.

Many presentations that delay public comment in the morning are given by staff members who do not have the same work constraints as citizens who have to report to private employers.  Proclamations are taking increasingly more time, with 10 minutes or more often devoted to these presentations.  It does not seem too much to ask those who attend a commission meeting once a year to receive a proclamation to wait a half-hour for public comment so that citizens can have 3 minutes to address you before they go to work.

Moving public comment from the beginning of the meeting to an undetermined time long after many citizens must leave for work has severely restricted public participation in the local government process.

Please consider restoring the 9:05 a.m. public comment period when you re-organize at your next meeting.

Thank you.

Ginny Sherlock

 

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