continued Public comment periods wouldn’t be totally barred under Theobald’s plan, which still has to be amended and approved by the town board.
“If the door is open, the door is open all the way. If you accept positive comments, you must accept the negative. Treat everyone equally."
— Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the Committee on Open Government
Should Theobald’s changes be adopted, residents would have to notify the town clerk of the subject of their comments. The topic would be screened by Theobald, who would determine if the comments were appropriate for discussion at the town board meeting. Items that would be deemed appropriate, Theobald said, include ‘action items,’ such as issues the board can do something about within the town, or issues applicable to the town or residents. Private property matters, neighbor disputes and state, federal or county issues would not be applicable to speak about.
Read the advisory opinion
Read the advisory opinion issued by the Committee on Open Government in 2009 here.
Joe Novek, who has taken the issue of public comment to the Committee on Open Government, says comments should be allowed at all meetings, regardless of if they are on the agenda.
“I think they need to do it on the standards of the Committee on Open Government, not on their standards,” Novek said. “They’re discriminating, if you open it up to a public forum, you have to allow dissenting points of view, too.”
Once approved to make the public comment and bring the item to the board, that person’s time will be added to the agenda.
“It makes it easier for everybody,” Theobald said. “I can say in advance to the board to be prepared to address the residents concerns. Hopefully we can satisfy and resolve whatever their issue is.”
Adding a step to voicing an opinion or concern at a board meeting will not help the public, said Manlius resident Ken Wagner.