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Hate-fueled disruption of City meetings changes rules on public participation

The Norwalk Ordinance Committee at its Feb. 20 meeting

Members of the public participating in city meetings face new rules and procedures after multiple meetings were disrupted by antisemitic and racist comments

“We as a council in response to some of the unfortunate incidents from the last month have made some changes to our meeting procedures regarding video conferencing and you will see those updates on the agenda,” said Council member Nora Niedzielski-Eichner, who chaired the Ordinance Committee on Tuesday. 

The biggest change is that the council will no longer reading written comments into the record. In order to have written comments even be a part of the record, meaning included in the minutes, members of the public must submit those via email in advance of the meeting by noon on the day of the meeting and use the subject line “Public Comment.” 

Niedzielski-Eichner, said as they reviewed these policies they “realized that there were inconsistencies across the different committees and inconsistencies create problems. So there is now a firm [policy] and it will apply to all committees and the council itself.”

She added that now all committees will “have the same expectations and clarity. And there will not be inconsistent procedures.”

Council member Heather Dunn said that it was important to communicate these changes and that she as a council member would consider reading someone’s comments into the record, “especially for people that have communication [issues], difficulty speaking, things like that—I think it’s important to have that.” 

The policies also specify in more detail the process for speaking during a meeting:

“All participants will be muted upon entering the meeting. To speak, click the “raise your hand indicator” and you will be called on by the host of the meeting during the public comment section. All speakers must state their name and address. Comments must be on a topic on the agenda, and are limited to three minutes. Anyone disrupting the orderly conduct of the meeting, including by using threatening, hateful, or sexually-explicit language, will be removed.”

“We encourage everyone to review the revised policies and procedures going forward, they will apply to all meetings of all council committees,” Niedzielski-Eichner said. “They are intended to make sure we are all protected from unfortunate, uncouth behavior that we’ve been subject to.”

The full set of instructions can be found on the Ordinance Committee’s Feb. 20 agenda.

Comments

One response to “Hate-fueled disruption of City meetings changes rules on public participation”

  1. Priscilla Feral

    The revised policies, which allow Council members to cut the microphones of attention-seeking speakers who attend meetings only to sprew hate speech is a necessity in a tumultuous culture where the shiniest object and loudest vulgarian demands center stage. Don’t give it to them. Don’t write about them. Cut them off the way Judge Judy runs her courtroom.

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