ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – On Tuesday, The Delta County Board of Commissioners opened its regularly scheduled meeting with a workshop. During that workshop, the commissioners discussed the possibility of limiting public comment at future meetings.
Currently, the board invites public comment on agenda items at the beginning of each meeting. Attendees have a second chance to speak to the board at the end of the meeting, listed as “general public comment” on each agenda.
Commissioner Bob Barron suggested eliminating one of those public comment opportunities “to keep order.” He said the public comment opportunities are being abused.
“By the time we get to the second, the crowd seems to get riled up and we have difficulty,” Barron said. “It would be much more streamlined, and two public comments are not a legal requirement.”
The commissioners went back and forth on the issue. Some said a change is necessary to avoid disruptions.
“If this progresses at a level that it was at last meeting, the deputy came over from the jail without even being asked,” said Board Chairman David Moyle. “People were that disruptive. If we don’t control that, it’s going to get out of hand.”
“Ond individual got up and commented toward a few of the board members,” Barron said of that previous meeting. “Another gets up and points something else out and then the crowd got upset… That became a situation where we had mob rule.”
Barron’s statement evoked murmurs from the audience.
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about right now,” Moyle said. “You have a time to interject and it is not now. I’m sorry. That doesn’t make me an egotist; it makes you out of order.”
Others, like Commissioner Steven Viau, opposed the idea.
“People elected me to listen to them,” he said. “I don’t have any issue listening to them whether it’s constructive, positive stuff, even if it’s false stuff—I don’t mind. It’ll make me a better commissioner.”
“I want to try to look at ways to potentially streamline the meeting,” Moyle said. “I think we’re at a point right now where it comes to keeping the meeting moving in a civil tone.”
“I do not want to take and restrict any of the public comment periods that we have in here,” Viau later said.
The potential to limit commissioners’ time to speak on a topic was also briefly mentioned.
The commissioners did not vote on the idea. At the end of the discussion, they agreed they should enforce policies already in place to handle “public outbursts.”
Click here for more on the September 5 Delta County Board of Commissioners meeting.