Abington Public Comment Stays As-Is
A motion to modify the 'public comment' portion of the Abington Board of Commissioners meetings is tabled.
On Thursday night, the Abington Board of Commissioners tabled a motion that would have revised the rules of procedure for public comments for full board meetings.
Abington Township Manager Michael LeFevre spoke on the issue during a May 2 public affairs committee meeting; he revisited the topic during Thursday night’s meeting.
“I suggested that a better way of soliciting public comment may be to move all public comment to the beginning of the meeting,” LeFevre said.
The now-tabled motion would have given residents three minutes to speak on agenda items, and three additional minutes to speak on non-agenda items — both in the beginning of the meeting, following the approval of the minutes and any scheduled ceremonial presentations.
There would be no public comment on agenda items later in the meeting.
Currently, residents may speak when a particular item shows up on the agenda, following commissioners’ remarks; residents have to wait until the end of the meeting to make general comments.
“I would like to point out that this is not a common practice in municipalities in suburban Philadelphia,” LeFevre said.
Generally, the commissioners lauded the idea of having a public comment period in the beginning of each meeting — which would allow residents to speak on an agenda item and then leave — but they had issues with not letting residents speak prior to the vote.
“Folks were eager to be able to make general comments at the beginning … I think people also like the option of commenting on agenda items early and then going home,” Commissioner John Spiegelman said, “but not at the expense of having the option to comment prior to the vote. That is an option that folks are absolutely not comfortable giving up.”
A resident said, “Right!” as Spiegelman was speaking and Spiegelman’s comments drew applause.
LeFevre said he disagrees with the notion that comments said just prior to a vote carry more weight.
“In fairness to the board of commissioners, you’re intelligent enough to retain someone’s comment for an hour, or two hours, and take that into consideration when the vote comes up,” LeFevre said.
However, LeFevre said due to the discussion, the agenda item should probably be tabled. The details will be meted out at the committee level.