The Daytona Beach News-Journal by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean
May 19, 2018
Beginning May 2, the new policy became officially ending the government meeting after dealing with everything on the agenda, taking a 5-minute break and then reconvening to hear general public comments that can be about most anything.
DAYTONA BEACH — Even in the age of cellphones, email, texting, Facebook and Twitter, some people still like to talk to elected officials face to face during public meetings.
And some of those taxpaying voters also want their comments to be heard by people listening live on government websites and television channels. So when Daytona Beach city commissioners made some changes this month to the way they listen to public comments on things not on meeting agendas, it raised the ire of some local residents.
Beginning May 2, the new policy became officially ending the government meeting after dealing with everything on the agenda, taking a 5-minute break and then reconvening to hear general public comments that can be about most anything. The meetings are now divided into what are being called the business meeting and a public comment forum.
“I thought public comment is the business of the City Commission,” said Daytona Beach resident Mary Synk. “That just says you don’t view public input as part of your responsibility.”
Synk and others were also disturbed to find out that during last week’s meeting, the general public comments were not broadcast over the internet or government channel, and there is no recording of them listed on the city website. The visuals on those end-of-meeting public comments were blacked out many months ago, but people could still hear the audio until last week. People listening at home Wednesday night suddenly got promotional city videos while people at City Hall saw and heard public comments.
Some citizens see it as a disrespectful dismissal of what they have to say, and a continued ebbing of their access to elected officials. The mayor and city commissioners, however, say they’re trying to find the best way to deal with people who have abused their right to speak. Some have regularly grandstanded for their personal agendas and launched verbally abusive personal attacks on the city manager, mayor and city commissioners.