I was at the Sanford City Commission meeting Monday night, and after a very normal meeting we got to the citizen participation part.
That is when it got interesting. I am not writing to touch on the subject that was discussed but the manner in which it was handled.
I looked up the definition of the word citizen: "An inhabitant of a city or town." Now I am sure that the citizens that got up to speak met that criteria, as they stated their address.
Where the problem starts is that the mayor and the city attorney have forgotten that. Every meeting has the same agenda, and no matter what is said, we the citizens are not able to comment. And if we try, we will learn real quick who is running the meeting and how loud a gavel sounds through a sound system. While I have come to accept that and follow it, I also feel that when it comes to the citizen participation part, that is our turn and we should be given the same respect that is expected.
On Monday, that did not happen. After one citizen finished speaking, the next one got up to speak and was cut off by the city attorney to give his opinion on why the citizen should not be allowed to speak about the subject. Are you joking?
The city attorney, who is suppose to advise the commission on legal matters, interrupted a citizen during citizen participation – not to say that he felt the law was being broken, but to say that he did not think this was the appropriate place to discuss the subject. Mr. Groot, it was citizen participation and, you sir, should have received the gavel and been called out of line or reminded, like the citizens, that there is a time to voice your opinion, which was the next Item on the agenda: the city attorney's report.
While all this was going on I would have expected the mayor to have spoken up and given the citizens their time to speak but she did not. Instead, she chose to bang her gavel one more time and tell the third citizen that she was out of line for responding to the city attorney during citizen participation.
I have not talked about the subject that was being discussed, as I feel no matter what subject is being talked about – good or bad, for or against – the citizens should be treated with respect and allowed to speak their mind as long as they follow the rules and do it during citizen participation. The system broke down, and the people that are supposed to be represented were not.
I also feel that a personal apology to each of the citizens that got up to speak but were cut off should come from the mayor and city attorney.