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Holmes Beach commission to explore public comment rules

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Barbara Hines takes advantage of public comment at the Holmes Beach Sept. 26 work session to announce that Island Gallery West, 5368 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, will host a birdhouse display in October. Islander Photo: Mark Young

Depending on the matter being discussed at a Holmes Beach commission meeting, a citizen wishing to speak sometimes may hold his or her tongue on any given subject for hours.

Public comment is typically afforded to citizens at open meetings, but the Florida Legislature earlier this year made it a requirement for cities and counties to establish official public comment policies through an ordinance or resolution.

Holmes Beach typically opens public comment at the end of a meeting, with the exception of a public hearing. Often decisions are made before the public speaks, although agenda items are usually discussed at prior work sessions or other regular meetings.

With the new law taking effect, commissioners now must establish a policy regarding public comment — and it must include taking public comment before voting on an agenda item.

City attorney Patricia Petruff, at a Sept. 26 work session, said the requirement to take comment before a vote doesn’t necessarily mean it has to take place at the meeting at which the vote is taken.

“For instance, we could have public comment on an agenda item at a work session and then wouldn’t have to at the regular meeting,” said Petruff. “The important thing is to have a policy that then presumes you are following the law. If not, you arguably put yourself at risk if the public challenges that they weren’t provided an opportunity to speak.”

Petruff said commissioners could do it as they wished, as long as the requirements of setting a policy and conducing public comment before a vote are met.

“You can do it at the beginning of a meeting or have public comment item by item,” she said. “That’s a choice you have to make. The law just requires a formal policy.”

Commissioner Pat Morton suggested having public comment item by item and Commissioner Judy Titsworth agreed.

“I know when I was sitting out there in the gallery waiting until the end of the meeting, I would get antsy because I wanted to speak so bad,” she said. “It would make it better to do it topic by topic.”

Commission Chair Jean Peelen disagreed, expressing concern for interrupting the flow of the meeting. She suggested having public comment at work sessions, and said the city needed to do a better job communicating the issues to the public.

However, she was willing to try a variety of ways to see what worked best and was agreeable to start with public comment by agenda item.

Petruff said there was time before the city had to establish policy and encouraged experimentation.

In other matters, Mayor Carmel Monti said the 4-cent gas tax was updated and Holmes Beach would receive more funding next year. Monti said Holmes Beach’s share in the gas tax was 1.35 percent and would increase to 1.75 percent. He said the revenue generated would increase from $83,000 a year to $106,000.

Monti also said technology updates to the city hall chambers would begin soon. The city is installing computers for commissioners and monitors for gallery members to view agendas and other documents during meetings.

It’s an attempt to move the city in a greener direction, Monti said.

In other matters, Police Chief Bill Tokajer announced his department received an $18,000 West Coast Inland Navigational District grant to purchase a new boat motor for the department’s patrol vessel.

The police department also is expecting to receive $9,000 in equipment, including a laser speed-measurement device and moving radar system for “proactive activities of our officers during the Click it or Ticket Campaign.”

Additionally, the department will receive two more moving radar systems valued at $7,000 from the Florida Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Florida Law Enforcement Liaison Program.

 

SIDEBAR:

 

City of Bradenton

RULES OF PROCEDURE FOR AGENDA AND PUBLIC APPEARANCES BEFORE CITY COUNCIL

PLEASE PLACE CELL PHONES ON SILENT MODE

 

PRIOR TO COUNCIL MEETING: Agenda will be prepared and available to the public by 5:00 p.m. of the Friday preceding the Council meeting. Appointments on the agenda, all items from Department Heads, and all other interested parties must be submitted before 5:00 p.m. on the Tuesday preceding the Council meeting. Anyone wishing to be placed on the agenda must contact Tim McCann, Public Information Officer for the City of Bradenton, at City Hall by phone 941-932-9497 or email: tim.mccann@cityofbradenton.com and give their name, business name (if applicable), whether they are resident taxpayers of the City and their business before Council. Appearances before Council will be scheduled per the Mayor or Council person in charge of the meeting. NOTE: The Mayor may ask a city department to look into the issue prior to the meeting to see if the issue can be resolved. If the Mayor or Councilperson in charge of the meeting feels the request is justified, they will instruct the City Clerk as to how much time to allow on the agenda. Be advised that, in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, persons needing a reasonable accommodation to participate in this proceeding should contact the City Clerk & Treasurer of the City of Bradenton at 101 Old Main Street, Bradenton, Florida 34205, telephone (941) 932-9445, not later than seven (7) days prior to the proceeding.

 

AT COUNCIL MEETING: If a person (or agent) wishes to address the City Council, they shall first complete a comment card available at the back of the Chamber. To discuss items listed on the agenda, the Public Hearing Comment (green) card should be completed. (Please circle “In Favor” or “Opposed” on the card as you will be summoned by that category.) To discuss non-agenda items, the Citizen Comment (yellow) card should be completed. (Please state topic you would like to comment on.) Submit the card to the City Clerk, who will then forward it to the Mayor. At the appropriate portion of the meeting, under Citizen Comment or at the time of the Public Hearing the Mayor will call your name to come forward. After being recognized by the Mayor, the person should come to the podium and, for the public record, state their name, address, whether they are a resident taxpayer of the City of Bradenton, and whether they are in favor of or against the item they wish to address. In the case of an agent, they shall identify themselves, then identify their clients by name, their clients’ address, whether their clients are resident taxpayers of the City of Bradenton, and whether their clients are in favor of or against the topic they wish to address. They should then proceed to state their position or present their information. Appearance on all items will be limited to three (3) minutes unless the Mayor rules otherwise. (Note: If handouts are being distributed, please provide a minimum of ten (10) copies to the City Clerk. If you wish to display a drawing or rendering, contact the Public Information Officer prior to the meeting.) Any submissions commented on, photographs, letters, renderings, etc. will be kept by the City Clerk for the record.

PURSUANT TO FLORIDA STATUTE 286.0105: If a person decides to appeal any decision made by the board, council, agency, or commission at this meeting, such person will need a record of the proceedings, and for such purpose may need to ensure that a verbatim record of the proceedings is made, which record includes the testimony and evidence upon which the appeal is to be based.

PLEDGE OF PUBLIC CONDUCT We, the Mayor, City Council and Employees of the City of Bradenton, agree to: *Establish a process to promote positive interaction among ourselves and the citizens of Bradenton in a positive and non-threatening environment. *Encourage visible, involved and active participation among all. *Promote improved communication through active listening, providing feedback and honest expression of ideas. *Utilize consensus for decision making. *We realize that though we may disagree, we will be respectful of each other. *We will direct all comments to the issues and will avoid personal attacks.

 

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