Town Council: Public Comment Is a Privilege, Not a Right

1943 poster featuring one of Norman Rockwell’s famous “Four Freedoms”

Cape Charles Wave

November 20, 2012

If the gavel bangs once — watch out.

If the gavel bangs twice, you’re out of there, courtesy of a police escort.

That’s the new suggested protocol for Town of Cape Charles public meetings.

Town Council held a work session November 15 to discuss how to control behavior during public meetings.

Town attorney Michael Sterling drafted three pages of “Guidelines for Citizen Participation.”  Council members Thursday expressed approval for the guidelines, and added a few more themselves, including the gavel rules.

The draft rules will be reviewed in December before coming to a vote in January.

The guidelines are meant to control not only public speakers but also Town Council members — or any members of any other official town board or commission.

Town Council members agreed that speaking at a meeting of a public body is a privilege, not a right, and that Council has the right to restrict that privilege as it sees fit.

Those restrictions could include prohibiting members of Council from participating in public comment time. [Read more…]