By Mary Hladky
Residents wishing to address the City Council will have to speak quickly.
Council members approved an ordinance on Nov. 14 that reduces the time allotted to people who want to weigh in on city matters from 5 minutes to 3.
The intent is to shorten the length of meetings when many residents show up to speak on a hot button issue.
Deputy Mayor Monica Mayotte cast the only dissenting vote.
“Leave it at 5 minutes,” she said. “I think this doesn’t look good on us to do this. I feel this is shutting out the public.”
The change garnered little resistance from residents, however. Only two spoke against it.
Amy Price, a city resident and city employee, described the change as “offensive.”
“What message are you sending to the residents of Boca Raton?” she asked. “How do you think this comes across? … Reducing public comment is another way of suppressing the will of the people.”
But the council majority defended the time reduction.
Mayor Scott Singer noted that city staff had surveyed 49 cities in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and the Palm Beach County Commission. Most had 3-minute speaking limits. Miami allows 2 minutes.
The new rule is not absolute, he said. The ordinance allows council members to revert to 5 minutes if they feel the extra time is warranted. Other council members also cited that flexibility.
Speaking in person is only one of many ways residents can and do communicate with the council, they said. Residents call, email and text.
“We are available all the time,” said council member Yvette Drucker.