Several council members have said they have grown tired of people who don’t live in the city bringing up topics unrelated to city business or what is on the agenda.
Panama City News Herald by John Henderson
August 24, 2017
People who don’t live within the Beach city limits no longer can get up and speak their mind about subjects absent from the agenda during Beach Council meetings.
Mayor Mike Thomas announced the change in policy at Thursday’s council meeting. In follow-up interviews after the meeting, four out of five council members said they support the mayor’s decision, which will not require a council vote.
Several council members had said they have grown tired of people who don’t live in the city bringing up topics unrelated to city business or what is on the agenda. Most of that has occurred at the end of the meetings during what is known as an open public comment period, which allows a person to bring up any subject they like and speak for three minutes, regardless of whether the item is on the council agenda.
The new policy allows only people who are city residents, own a city business, or who are on the city’s utility system to speak during the open comment period. Anyone still can comment during the regular public comment periods for specific subjects on the agenda, such as proposed new laws.
The new policy resulted in Internet talk show host Burnie Thompson having to sit down before he completed his remarks Thursday. Thompson repeatedly has gotten up at the end of the meetings and more often than not criticized the council, particularly Mayor Mike Thomas and Councilman Hector Solis.
But when Thompson got up to speak Thursday, Mayor Mike Thomas immediately informed Thompson, who provided a Front Beach Road address, that his comments would not be allowed during the open public comment period. Thomas told Thompson he is not a resident of the city but that he would be glad to meet with him any time to discuss his concerns.
“This is not your government,” Thomas told Thompson. “You need to be talking to Bay County.”
Thompson asked city attorney Amy Myers if she could cite a Florida statute that would “deny me an opportunity to address the council.” Myers said Florida law only allows a person to make a public comment on matters that are before the board for consideration. Thompson quickly pointed out that he wanted to know why his public records request with the city hadn’t been satisfied, but Myers said that subject was not on the agenda. [READ MORE]