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Council speakers decry three-minute proposal

April 29, 2000

Robert Blechl

CIVIC CENTER -- Those wishing to give their two cents at City Council

meetings may soon have to pick up the pace.

Despite vigorous opposition from a score of citizens Tuesday, the City

Council voted 4-1 to include cutting public speaking time as one of

several possible measures to shorten meetings that often stretch for four

or five hours.

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The proposal, initiated by Councilman David Golonski, would trim the

five-minute allotment per person to three minutes in the first of three

public speaking periods. Proponents contend less time at the podium will

enable officials to conduct city business quicker and prevent the weekly

meetings from approaching the witching hour.

However, opponents said the speaking limit would be a blow to

community involvement in government and to freedom of speech.

Burbank resident Kevin McCarney said the proposal is intended to

stifle those who hurl insults at the council.

"Because some people use the microphone with disrespect, how can you

justify taking away everyone's right?" McCarney asked the council. "If

you are destroying the freedom of speech for a few of us you are

destroying it for all of us."

Golonski proposed that the first session be reduced since it is

traditionally the longest.

"What we are saying is the business of the city is important,"

Golonski said. "We make a lot of decisions that people don't see because

they're asleep."

Golonski suggested a trial period of 60 days for the three-minute

rule.

"If you know it ahead of time, you'll make your point," Golonski said.

"I don't think it will, but if we feel it's stifling oral communications,

we'll change it back. I'm not looking to take away anyone's right to

speak or address this council."

Councilman David Laurell stood behind Golonski's proposal. Mayor

Stacey Murphy and Vice Mayor Bill Wiggins said they were not in favor of

the measure but they agreed to keep it as an option. Murphy said shorter

time limits would only pare the length of meetings by half an hour at

most.

The council agreed to reconsider the proposal along with several

others, such as starting the 7 p.m. meetings an hour earlier and

videotaping some council presentations before the meetings. No definite

timetable was set to decide the matter.

Kramer, who cast the dissenting vote, said he wouldn't consider

reducing speaking time.

"What message are you sending? That the people aren't important,"

Kramer said. "It seems wrong to deprive the people of five minutes

because maybe we don't like what they're saying."

Burbank resident Peggy Nudo said it is the council members' duty to

listen to citizens.

"Public speaking is city business, even if some of the matters are

trivial," Nudo said. "In a council meeting, one of the most important

things is hearing from the constituents. If you represent the people you

have to want to hear the people."

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