The ordinance was introduced at the June 19 meeting and was passed on July 3, 5-1, after a public hearing in which no one spoke on the issue. Assembly member Mel Stephens voted against it.
Since then, chatter in local Facebook groups has mostly gone against the ordinance with a few for it. Five showed up at Thursday’s work session in a packed room to voice their opposition.
Community member Dennis Simmons said he believed that the ordinance was a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
“This is over the top,” he said. He added that he believed the ordinance would keep people from coming forward to comment at meetings.
Judi Kidder, another community member said, “I do understand what you’re trying to do, but the language in it is not specific enough.”
She believes the ordinance needs to cite certain instances of speech that are not acceptable.
Two other community members said they were worried about the Constitutionality of the ordinance as well.
Borough manager Bud Cassidy told the Mirror that the borough attorney had gone over the ordinance, and parts of it had been written by an attorney who was very familiar with “Robert’s Rules of Order,” the book on parliamentary procedure that governs assembly meetings and is widely considered to be an authority on the subject.
The ordinance, co-sponsored and requested by assembly members Chris Lynch and Carol Austerman, amends sections 2.30.080 and 2.30.090 of the borough code.
The new ordinance addresses both assembly members and the public saying, “Every person shall avoid the use of profanities, personally offensive, insulting, threatening, or abusive remarks at all times. Every person while speaking shall avoid personalities, and under no circumstances can a person attack or question the motives of another person.”
Formerly, the borough already had an ordinance covering debate in meetings with more limited language stating, “No assembly member shall impugn the motive of any assembly member’s vote or argument and shall avoid personalities.”
A second portion of the new ordinance addresses “point of order,” or the ability of assembly members to question an issue regarding parliamentary procedure. In the old ordinance, point of order could only be called in regards to other assembly member comments. Now, assembly members can call point of order about public comments as well.
Cassidy said the ordinance was spurred in part by past instances of inappropriate behavior in meetings.
Spectators were passing around a repeal petition during the public comment time. The status of the petition was not known at presstime.
Contact Julie Herrmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.