More than half a dozen community members attended last night’s Borough Assembly work session to voice their concerns on a recently passed borough ordinance.
During the assembly’s July 3 meeting, the assembly approved a debate decorum ordinance that, among other things, would prevent community members and those addressing the assembly from attacking or questioning the motives of another person. The ordinance passed in a 5-1 vote with Assemblyman Mel Stephens dissenting.
The goal of the ordinance was to ensure people behave appropriately and respectfully during meetings, and provide guidelines for handling situations when that isn’t done. But many viewed the ordinance as an over step on the part of the assembly and a potential violation of constitutional rights.
Dennis Symmons was one of a handful of folks that felt this way.
“Despite what our legal firm has said, this is over the top.” Judi Kidder said she understood what the assembly was trying to do by passing the ordinance, but didn’t feel the language was specific enough.
“It has to be narrowly tailored. You have to cite specific instances that violate – that create a disruption in the meeting. They have to be itemized, you can’t just deny someone the right to say what they want to say because you don’t want to hear it.”
Tyler Randolph also took issue with the language, and felt it went against the purpose of the borough assembly.
“It says ‘under no circumstance can a person attack or question the motives of another person.’ Well no offense but that’s kind of what you guys are here for. You’re here to make decisions but you’re also here as representatives of us citizens and as that – part of the duty that comes along with that job – is taking criticism.”
Randolph asked the assembly reconsider what they were trying to accomplish and be very specific with how they word it before anything is put into place.
The ordinance was not an item on the assembly’s work session agenda, so no discussion was given to the matter.