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When Williston City Council President Marc Nussel announced last week the elimination of public comment at council meetings, we were, at first, alarmed. After all, this country is based on basic freedoms–like speech, assembly, religion and the press.
But then Nussel clarified, stating that residents can still speak on issues on the agenda, and if the need occurs, they can be placed on an upcoming agenda to have their concerns addressed.
We thought his decision was strictly to ensure that meetings are conducted in a business-like manner that utilizes civility to accomplish the work before the council.
However, in the past week through other media and social network sites, we read that Nussel squelched the comments because candidates for city council are, “abusing their privileges.”
Seems the president feels that the candidates were using the comment period to campaign.
So which is it, Mr. President? Was your decision to deny the people the RIGHT to speak solely for conducting smoother meetings, or was it to inhibit candidates against two incumbents to seek answers in a public setting?
Is it fair to allow those incumbents the chance to grandstand on topics the people are interested in while quashing any rebuttal from their opponents?
In all fairness, candidate Jerry Robinson has remained fairly quiet during meetings while candidate Norm Fugate asked two questions during a council meeting.
Does that really necessitate disallowing the public at large to weigh in on matters that concern them?
We implore the city council to overturn the president’s decision to eliminate public comment at its meetings and at the same time re-issue the challenge to the president to stand firm as the man who restores, and keeps, order in the meetings.
The power to run a smooth meeting is in his hands. He needs to exercise it.