UPDATED: Colosimo-Testa Proposes Restoring Public Comment
June 18th 2012 · 2 Comments
For many decades, the public’s had the right to address their city representatives at bi-weekly common council meetings during what is called “Privilege of the Floor.” During my years of covering Utica government and even a term in the county legislature, this has never been an issue. That was until last year.
For some reason, the council decided they no longer wanted to allow people the right to address them in public back in January of 2011. They voted to end the practice. This outraged many regular speakers and activists. In November of 2011, they compromised and re-instituted the right to speak, but limited it to the end of the council meeting. They reserved the speeches at the start to only comments on pending legislation. This created confusion for many attendees that may have signed the wrong sheet and were stopped from speaking on everyday issues. Councilman Ed Bucciero said at the time, “world peace and the war are not issues this council wants to hear about.” Furthermore, it has become practice of the Council President to make a point of singling out any speaker that may not live within city limits. This gives the implication that their concerns may be of less import.
Samantha Colosimo-Testa, R-6, is proposing legislation that would restore the privilege of the floor to the beginning of the council meeting.
The legislation calls the practice “redundant.” The original resolution was perceived as an attempt to end the public comment. Colosimo-Testa has contacted the Phoenix to explain that her intention is the opposite. She wants to allow people the right to speak before the meetings to allow them the chance to get a response from their officials.
“What I want to do with the privilege of the floor is to make it so that during public comment period it is not only to discuss legislation but to discuss anything pertaining to the city,” Colosimo-Testa said. ”I feel that it is not fair to the public that they have to wait until the end of our meeting to talk about what they want to without getting any response.”
Editor’s Note: there are still questions regarding the wording of the resolution submitted by Councilwoman Colosimo-Testa and whether it will actually have the effect she says, or if it will actually end public comment. See the resolution here.