Macungie Council Continues to Discourage Public Comment
Council President Jean Nagle is considering permanently moving the public comment component of council meetings to the end of the meeting.
Macungie Council began its Sept. 4 meeting with more contention regarding the public comment component that normally begins the meeting.
If there are several comments to be expressed, this portion of the meeting can sometimes take an hour or more before council can begin the business at hand.
This is the time of the meeting when Macungie residents and business owners are afforded the opportunity to speak on non-agenda items, which means they can speak about a range of concerns.
For the Aug. 20 meeting, as well, public comment was moved to the end of the meeting by council Vice President Greg Hutchison because Nagle was on vacation.
There was an uproar as residents alleged the democratic process was being stifled. Others said it was not a bad idea and that it might allow council business to be conducted in a more timely manner.
The Aug. 20 meeting, however, was ultimately cancelled due to a lack of a quorum, and at the time, Borough Manager Chris Boehm said the move was not necessarily permanent.
And it still may not be.
At the Sept. 4 meeting, council members Christopher Becker, Joseph Sikorski and Debra Cope strongly voiced their opposition to moving public comment to the end of the meeting.
Do you feel that the public should be allowed to speak at the beginning of the meeting? Or should council be allowed to conduct its business first? Tell us in the comments.
Cope reminded Nagle that council voted in earlier in the year to adopt the order of the meeting components.
"Public comments from the audience will be heard at the beginning of the Council meeting....Comments will be at the courtesy of the floor, limited to five (5) minutes or less. Public comments my be heard during an agenda item after Council's discussion and prior to a decision being made...."
Nagle then reminded Cope of the very last line of the 2012-2013 meeting guidelines:
"The president reserves the right to modify the order of the meeting."
By the time council reached the public comment component of the Sept. 4 meeting it was about 10 p.m. Several people had filtered out of the Macungie Institute meeting room by then.
Two people spoke.
In its entirety, public comment that usually takes about an hour lasted two minutes.