Having been berated and scolded several times by Parkesburg residents during the Public Comment section of monthly Council Meeting over the last three or four month, five members of Parkesburg Borough Council seven member board (Councilpersons Mark Agen and Chuck Persch were absent) adopted a new Public Comment Policy Monday night.
With the intent to provide a “reasonable opportunity” for residents with concerns or issues to address council as well as make the Public Comment portion of their meeting more “predictable and orderly,” council unanimously approved the new policy limiting the length of time any one visitor can speak to 3 minutes and the duration of the “Public Comment” portion, a standard agenda item at the start and end of every council meeting, to 15 minutes.
The new policy also disallows personal attacks and discourages statements in the form of questions.
Council President Kathy Rick was quick to point out Monday that this new policy shouldn’t restrict residents of Parkesburg from airing their concerns. If more time is needed, said Rick, and “there is productive conversation happening, [council] can’t extend this.”
Mayor John Hagan also weighed in on the Public Comment Policy discussion suggesting to council that they consider adding a provision to the policy requiring visitors to stand, state their name and “where they reside” when making a comment.
As he spoke Hagan made the distinction between people who live in Parkesburg and those who merely own property, implying a different status for each of the two groups. “We are elected to serve the body politic of Parkesburg,” Hagan said. “People who don’t live in Parkesburg may have a good idea but they are not entitled to the same privileges as Parkesburg residents enjoy.”
Following Hagan’s comments and a brief discussion by council the new policy was amended to include the requirement that commenter state their name and address where they reside when making a comment.
Council voted unanimously to approve the amended policy.