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Public Comment at Council: Just the Facts

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    The headline of an article in last week's Central City News read "Mayor's Plan Would Inhibit Public Comment at Council."  This is simply untrue, because this is not the "Mayor's Plan".  It is instead an Ordinance that the Mayor is required to enforce. The ordinance was enacted by the City Council in 2005 and enforcement of the ordinance was rightfully requested by current Councilman Wayne Messina.  This Ordinance will remain in force unless the majority of the City Council votes to change it.  The Mayor has no authority to change the Ordinance.  The following communication was issued from the office of the Mayor of the City of Central, and clearly spells out the facts regarding the current Ordinance for Public Comment at City Council meetings:

To: Citizens of Central and Members of the Public

From: David Barrow, Executive Assistant

Date: December 20, 2010

Re: Editorial in Central City News – December 16, 2010

An editorial by Woody Jenkins on page 2 in the Central City News, December 16, 2010 edition

titled, “Mayor’s Plan Would Inhibit Public Comment at Council” contained some very misleading and incorrect information regarding public comment at council meetings. This plan is not “the mayor’s plan”, but instead is a plan adopted by a previous city council and included in the city’s code of ordinances. I would like to clarify this matter and give background information as to how this procedure was enacted.  Prior to writing this press release, both Mayor Watts and council member Wayne Messina were consulted to verify information.

    At the October 12, 2010 council meeting, council member Wayne Messina introduced an ordinance titled, “An ordinance to limit the time for comments by council members during a council meeting.” A copy of that ordinance is attached to this memo. This ordinance was proposed by council member Messina due to a nearly 4-hour council meeting that occurred previously in which citizens expressed frustration afterwards about the amount of time that it took to discuss an item by each council member. Council member Messina’s ordinance would limit the amount of time that council members could speak uninterrupted to five minutes with an additional five minutes for rebuttal on any given item in order to move the council meetings along in a timely manner. Additionally, no council member would speak unless recognized by the presiding official, which would be the mayor or, in his absence, the mayor pro-tem.   

    At the October 26, 2010 council meeting, a public hearing was to be heard on this ordinance.  However, prior to discussion, Council member Messina asked that discussion of this item be withdrawn due to the fact that he discovered there was already a city ordinance outlining these same procedures for comments. City attorney Sheri Morris concurred with council member Messina that there were already procedures in place under Title 1, Chapter 1, Part 1 (Rules of Procedure) of the city’s code of ordinances.

    This section, established by a previous city council, states the following:

Sec. 1:7. Conducting of meetings; public hearings.  (a) In view of the many items appearing on the agenda, each councilman will be allowed a maximum of five (5) minutes to express his views on any one subject without interruption from the other members upon initial consideration and five (5) minutes for rebuttal. No member will speak until recognized by the chair. In compliance with R.S. 42:5(d), members of the public will be allowed to speak on any item included on the agenda. Members of the

public who wish to speak, must request permission in writing to do so prior to discussion of the matter on which they wish to speak. The chairman will allocate time to all members of the public who wish to comment.

(b) Any question to be directed from a member of the council to any other person present must be directed through the chair.

(c) The city clerk is to be sergeant-at-arms and shall keep time and advise the chairman as to the time on all speakers. In order to continue beyond the allowed maximum, persons speaking must secure unanimous consent of the council.

(d) A ruling of the chairman ‘that an item on the agenda was not properly placed on the agenda shall be sustained unless overruled by the vote of two-thirds of the members then present. All other rulings of the chairman from which appeals are taken shall be sustained unless overturned by a majority of those members present.

    After this section was discussed, council member Messina stated that there was no need for his proposed ordinance since Title 1, Chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1:7 addressed his concerns and established procedures for public comment for both council members and the general public. The ordinance was then withdrawn, and it was requested by members of the council that the procedures of this section be followed for future council meetings. On Tuesday, December 16, 2010, Mayor Watts announced that these

procedures will be followed for future council meetings. So, therefore, it is not “the mayor’s plan”. It is set of procedures that were previously adopted by council action in the city’s ordinances on November 22, 2005.   

    In a telephone conference last Thursday, council member Messina pointed out that the State Legislature uses a similar procedure at its committee hearings, and this procedure seems to work well.  Citizens wishing to speak on an item must fill out a card prior to the meeting requesting to speak on a particular item. Only those who filled out cards requesting to speak are allowed to speak on an item at the committee hearings of the legislature. The Central Community School System is considering a similar procedure for its meetings as well. The city’s ordinance is generally consistent with the state legislature’s procedures and the proposed procedures of the Central Community School System.

    The statement in the Central City News article which reads, “The Mayor should reconsider his statement, and the council should make sure this idea doesn’t take hold” is misleading. A previous council established these rules by ordinance on November 22, 2005, and members of the current council requested that this law be enforced (and take hold) in order to provide for timely council meetings while still allowing the public the right to be heard.

    By copy of this letter, a request is hereby made for the Central City News to issue a clarification and apology to Mayor Watts for running an editorial with a misleading headline and not presenting all the facts that were discussed openly during a public council meeting on October 26, 2010. A recorded audio copy of this meeting is available to the public.

21 Comments

  1. Central Resident

    December 22, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Dave – I don’t think many people are surprised at the “very misleading and incorrect information” in Woody’s rag! It is nothing but propaganda, and quite honestly, yellow journalism. His paper is full of his crap each and every week! Of course he always throws in an interesting and usually historical story to keep some reading. It strikes me as funny that Woody is still crying foul over the City services contract and the public records request, when there are still so many unanswered questions about the School system audit and bogus change order requests!!! Where are his passionate stories demanding documents, raking the Shool board President and the rest of the school board members over the coals each and every week? Why just the Mayor and certain council members? Things that make you go……….hummmm?

  2. Kyle

    December 22, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Thanks, again, Dave for printing and letting the citizens know the truth. Thank you, City of Central, for stating the facts and presenting an accurate summary, something the Central City News did not provide. I read the School Board’s procedures for public comment on their webpage today, and their procedures show that citizens will have to fill out a card to speak. Woody, why is that not a problem for your beloved school board, but yet you have a problem with the city doing it? You left that out of your editorial! Seems like there’s a double set of standards here.

  3. Mike Mannino

    December 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Would it surprise both of you to know that Woody supports this across the board ? Despite the way some of you try to paint him, he is a good, honest upstanding man. Maybe you should get to know him instead of going by what you read as you preach.

    Central Resident,
    Each and every week ? Thats a broad statement that you would be hard pressed to prove. 99% of what I read is factually correct but may not be in a format that people looking for a reason to find fault will accept. The other 1% I can forgive him for since I only know of one person that ever walked on this earth that was perfect. And we celebrate his birth in a couple of days. Merry Christmas and I hope Santa brings you an objective mind.

    • dave

      December 23, 2010 at 10:00 pm

      Mike, one other response to your comment. I take no issue with anyone not being perfect, as I am not. There is, however, a difference between being wrong by accident as opposed to being wring by choice. I was led once to believe that there was an 80-10-10 split between Safebuilt, CH2, and Central. I found that to be an urban legend and admitted I was misinformed. That is written in no agreement that I gave ever found.

      Print an error by mistake or misunderstanding, ok. Correct it and move on. Print incorrect information by choice, even if it were only 1% of the time, and I call that wrong.

  4. Mike Mannino

    December 23, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    I still maintain that neither of you print anything that is patently false.

    • dave

      December 24, 2010 at 12:19 am

      Mike, The standard for journalism in America today has dipped to new lows. It is shameful that the only standard that has to be met is to avoid a slander lawsuit and try not to say anything “patently false”.

      Call me a throwback if you like, but if “not getting caught in a lie” has become as good as “telling the truth”, we need to get a new moral compass.

  5. Tim Lazaroe

    December 24, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Mike,

    If Woody supports this then why did his headline state, “Mayor’s Plan Would Inhibit Public Comment at Council”?

    Why did he fail to mention this is NOT the “Mayor’s Plan” but instead an old ordinance — which will now be enforced as a result of prodding from Councilman Messina?

    Why does he state in his article that there is “nothing reasonable” about this ORDINANCE?

    Once again, it is blatantly clear that Woody engineered this article to paint the mayor in a bad light. How can you not see that?

  6. Mike Mannino

    December 24, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Tim,
    All I said was that if an elected official didnt know it, how would you expect Woody ? Wayne brought it up. And as someone that has been at quite a few meetings, you couldnt tell there was one because it wasnt being enforced. I surely didnt know about it and I’m sure most of teh public didnt.

  7. Tim Lazaroe

    December 26, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Woody is smart enough to know that such procedures can only come from ordinances — and ordinances are created by the council (NOT BY THE MAYOR!).

    Those of us who have watched Woody systematically work to undermine the Mayor’s credibility (and the credibility of certain non Woody-aligned council members) recognize that this was OBVIOUSLY just another one of those shots. I continue to be disappointed that so many of you either cannot or will not acknowledge Woody’s motives.

  8. Central Resident

    December 27, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Mike,

    Maybe you did not read my entire post. I’m not splitting hairs over any of Woody’s words and I don’t intend to start that anytime soon. I’m not preaching about anything, just sharing a few thoughts that have been bugging me for quite some time. The last month or so Woody has toned his articles down, I’ll give you that. Until last week, then it started again. I looked up ‘yellow journalism’ and here’s what I found: techniques are exaggerations of news events, scandal mongering, or sensationalism. Also: scare headlines in huge print, often of minor news, lavish use of pictures, and dramatic sympathy with the ‘underdog’ against the system. Ok, even if you don’t think CCN is yellow journalism, and his “articles” are just CCN way of reporting news and it’s an acceptable form of journalism then you need to answer my last concern. WHY did CCN have one little article in the middle of the paper about the CCSS audit? Was there any article about the CCSS Board president refusing to discuss agenda items, even after Board council advised it should be discussed? If this would have been the Mayor or the council I can envision article after article for weeks and weeks. Just like Kyle pointed out, there seems to be a double set of standards. This is very suspect in my mind, I don’t know what Woody is up to, but I guess we can all sit back, watch and connect the dots. There are many of us in the Central community that are not as gullible as Woody would like us to be. See? We don’t have to agree, these are my feelings, and for the record I have a very objective mind, and I know when it’s being manipulated.

  9. Kyle

    December 27, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Personal attacks by Mr. Jenkins in his paper are all representative of “yellow journalism”. He makes personal attacks on people’s characters. That is just wrong. That is not newspaper reporting. It has become nothing more than the Star or National Enquirer. He attacks anyone who disagrees with him. From the mayor to Louis Dejohn, Russell Starns, Wade Giles, Sheri Morris, Aaron Moak, Lucky Ross, Judge Janice Clark, Judge Kay Bates, Ch2MHill, Kip Holden, President Obama, and the list goes on and on. It’s sickening! Yet he promotes anyone who sides with him. I have a question. Why has Mr. Jenkins never published “From the Mayor’s Desk”? It has been stated that the mayor sends this to both newspapers. Why doesn’t Woody publish it? Maybe it’s to keep the Mayor’s good deeds and wishes out of his paper?

  10. Debbie

    December 27, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    In addition to the apology being requested by Mr. Barrow
    I am requesting an apology to the citizens of the Central
    Community. Enough is enough. Time to move on Woody.

  11. Mike Mannino

    December 28, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Debbie,
    I didnt hear anything about David. What happened ?

  12. Debbie

    December 28, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Mike
    See above article. David made the request at the end of the letter printed above.

  13. Concerned Citizen

    December 30, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Mike,

    Just another observation, when the Advocate or one of the local TV stations attend public meetings they typically hang around until after the meeting to interview those they will be reporting on to make sure that their views are accurately portrayed. I never see Woody doing this. If it was not clear after the conclusion of the council meeting regarding the discussion on public comment all Woody would have needed to do to ensure that he was reporting the facts was to interview the Mayor. After all news should be about the facts not someone slated view of the event. Woody is entitled his own views just like the rest of us. However, he should report the facts and opinions of our public officials completely and accurately. If he wants a commentary section to represent his views then these articles should clearly be separate from the news. I am convinced that unity will never be restored to our community until Woody is gone.

  14. mike mannino

    December 30, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I dont agree about Woody being gone but you made a good point about interviewing for clarification. I do know that he has been treated less than respectfully on numerous occasions by some and probably doesnt feel they will talk to him. Also am aware that when anyone from CCN tries to talk to City Services or City officials, they get little cooperation. However, your point is a good one, he needs to force the issue when he needs to find out what a statement means. Cant argue with that.

  15. Tim Lazaroe

    December 31, 2010 at 12:37 am

    If Woody is having trouble talking to CH2MHill or the Mayor’s office, that’s a problem that he created.

  16. Greg

    January 12, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Just my thoughts,

    I have been away for awhile and I was just catching up on some old news when I came across this article and the comments. I’m sitting hear looking at the last comment made by Tim about Woody’s creating the problem with CH2MHill and the Mayor’s office. Don’t know about CH2MHill by I remember when the Mayor went to Woody’s office to complain about what was being printed and had the employee’s there feeling threatened by his outburst. I wonder how Dave would respond if that happened to him or his employee’s? So I dont know who created it but neither one of them is willing to be responsible and sitdown like adults and fix the problem.
    I’m reading the comments where Dave and Mike are discussing what’s being printed in Woody’s paper and Dave had some comments about a moral compass, blah blah etc. I think both papers print the facts in an effort to “Capture the Reader”. Dave does the same thing with his paper. Example, on September 9th 2010 the article “No Wrongdoing and I didn’t Expect Any”. This was Mike Mannino’s effort going through records etc. Now in my opinion there is no diffence between my example and the articles that Woody prints.
    If someone has a problem with what Woody is printing then let them take him to court. It will not happen because what it boils down too is that there is a factual basis for the articles but every indiviual has a different outlook or viewpoint.

    • dave

      January 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      I am actually glad to see that consistently, over 9 months and 38 newspapers with Approx 1,000 articles, this is the single headline that brings criticism. Even IF you take exception to the approach, let’s bring up three or four more examples in CentralSpeaks.com that you feel might be misleading. OK?

  17. Greg

    January 12, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    I will just put like this. If I tell my kid, not to bite his fingernails but the next day he observes my biting my own. I think I may need to look in the mirror. ” Just Saying “

    • dave

      January 12, 2011 at 11:11 pm

      I take that to mean your criticism of that particular headline choice is an isolated “1 in a thousand” kind of thing. Would that be correct or are there others?

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