Rules and input make meetings productive

Published 10:03 pm Thursday, October 19, 2017

Brookhaven aldermen put in writing what has been the protocol for years regarding public speakers at Board of Aldermen meetings.

Anyone who seeks to address the board must be added to the agenda the week before. Those requesting to be on the agenda have to go through the city clerk’s office, and requests to speak can be denied. The policy also limits speakers to five minutes.

The policy makes sense from a productivity standpoint, and it’s similar to what other cities typically require of speakers. If everyone was allowed to address the board with any complaint and for any amount of time, the meetings would be chaotic and unproductive.

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“This has been the protocol the board has followed since 1997,” Mayor Joe Cox said. “The board officially adopted the procedures conducting board meetings to ensure the meetings are productive and efficient.”

Typically, government bodies solidify protocols in written policies when it anticipates having those protocols challenged — or sometimes, after those protocols have been challenged.

These types of policies limit speech from the public at meetings, even if that is an unintentional consequence. In theory, the city clerk’s office could keep an individual who seeks to discuss a controversial topic off the agenda. That would keep the topic from being discussed publicly. We are not suggesting that was the motivation behind Brookhaven’s policy.

We encourage anyone who seeks to address the board for any reason to follow the outlined procedures to ensure they are given their five minutes. Government bodies need to hear from the public they serve. The city is stronger when its residents are willing to get involved.