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Where’s the democracy?

It seems as though some folks in San Leandro were upset Monday night that their freedom of speech may not have been allowed to be fully exercised.

With 16 residents wanting to speak during the public comments period at the City Council meeting, Mayor Tony Santos decided to limit the residents’ comments to two minutes each (rather than the three minutes normally allotted) because so many people wanted to speak.

Some said this was a violation of the Brown Act, the law that governs open meetings. But Santos and the city attorney maintained that the mayor was well within his power to limit public comment at meetings.

As a matter of fact, they are right. According to the Brown Act, the City Council does have the power to:

“adopt ‘reasonable’ regulations governing citizens addressing the body, including, but not limited to, ‘regulations limiting the total amount of time allocated for public testimony on particular issues and for each individual speaker.’”

But that still doesn’t sit right with people, especially when they feel they have something to say. And that doesn’t mean the mayor is obligated to cut short people’s time to speak. It’s purely up to discretion.

What do you think? Should a city council limit public speech at a meeting, even if there are a lot of people who have something to say?

mricard