The Coastal Star

Briny Breezes: Briny prunes verbosity and vitriol with new rules

By Tim O’Meilia

    Be warned:  the three-minute rule is now in effect at Briny Breezes meetings. And no cheers or jeers.
    The Town Council unanimously enacted a set of five procedural rules Nov. 17 for public comment at Town Council and board meetings.
    Among them: one three-minute comment per agenda item, no rebuttals. One three-minute comment during the public comment portion at the end of the meeting, so cram all your thoughts into one carefully crafted speech.
    Profanity earns you an ejection from the meeting. So may “personal, impertinent or slanderous remarks.”
    Watch your boisterousness. “Demonstrations of approval or disapproval” run the risk a room clearing by the presiding officer.
    Step up to the mic and give your name and address. Make your comments short and to the point. The first two people to speak at November’s meeting didn’t give their names.
    “This is not an effort to halt public participation,” said Mayor Roger Bennett. “This gives us a handle on things if they get out of hand.”
    Briny Breezes joins a list of municipalities cracking down on uncivil tongues at meetings. South Palm Beach has a three-minute rule and Mayor Donald Clayman reads the rules at each meeting.
    The town of Palm Beach has had a three-minute rule for years, usually enforced on controversial topics. In Highland Beach, the town clerk recites the town’s Civility Pledge before each meeting.
    Council President Sharon Kendrigan proposed the rules after angry comments during the October meeting. “We just want people to behave in a civil manner,” she said after the November meeting. She said the town attorney was insulted by some remarks at that meeting.
    Kendrigan suspects townspeople have become too accustomed to vitriolic exchanges at corporation board meetings.
    “Yelling and hollering? Not in Briny,” she said.

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