|North Adams City Council Reconsidering Meeting Rules|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
11:13PM / Tuesday, April 10, 2012
|City councilors agree that the meetings have become more orderly but feel there are still too many disruptions. |
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council is considering barring citizens who repeatedly disrupt their meeting from attending.
Council President Michael Bloom led the first rewrite of council rules that restricted the amount of time a resident had to speak during council meetings.
"We have seen a continual breech of proper conduct and behavior to the point where this council should consider establishing a rule to remove the right of attendance after being ruled out of order a certain number of times," Councilor Alan Marden said.
The council beefed up regulations in January to limit the amount of public speaking during the meeting. Instead of allowing the public to weigh in on each agenda item, the council restricted residents to three minutes during open forum at the beginning of the meeting and two minutes at the end.
"During the last few years things were eroding from agenda items to different platforms for gallery conversators. False statements, innuendo, slander, snide remarks, name calling, grandstanding, disrespect for the council, the office of the Mayor and city employees had become the norm on every council agenda item. Former Councilor [Ronald] Boucher would gavel the gallery continuously. Shouting matches would take place between the president, councilors and gallery conversators," Council President Michael Bloom said on Tuesday. "Our meetings require order, decorum and decency to conduct city business. Our focus must be on issues at hand."
On Tuesday, the council discussed the effects of the new rules. Many councilors said that the meeting are more efficient and orderly. However, the meetings still have disruptions, they said.
"The way it's been going, in my opinion, has been better," Councilor Keith Bona said. "I also do like the idea of a three strike rule because even under our current situation and rules, there haven't solved everything. Maybe it will but I don't know how many recesses we need, I don't know how many times the police will have to be called. How many times can someone keep doing these interruptions and disruptions without any recourse?"
Resident Robert Cardimino, who typically speaks during open forum, was recently escorted out of the chambers by police for being "out of order." That was the second time in as many months that the police were called on him. On Tuesday, he said the council is "bullying" him by changing the rules.
"I don't see anything wrong with constructive criticism but that's what you don't want to hear," Cardimino told the council. "The more you shut us down, the more we're going to dig."
Cardimino said he has filed a report with the state attorney general claiming the council is restricting his rights.
Resident Mark Trottier advocated for the council to reinstate the old rules and claimed the changes are a "fast rush to judgment to silence a few people."
The council ultimately tabled the discussion for another month.
In other business, the council approved a trial period for diagonal parking on Main Street from the Mohawk Theater and Holden Street from this July until June 2013.
The move received recommendation from both the Public Safety Committee and the Traffic Commission. The move was approved by an 8-1 vote with Councilor John Barrett III voting against it.
"It's been a small, select group making this decision," Barrett said. "I haven't been sold on it."
Bona countered by saying that diagonal parking is one of many aspects that go into the downtown. The parking will not be the attraction for visitors and businesses but adds to the overall appeal, he said.
Some councilors expressed concern over safety but agreed to monitor it.
"I am concerned about safety but I am going to vote yes on this because I'd like to see the trial period go through," Councilor Marie Harpin said.
Another traffic proposal to ban parking on the north side of West Main Street was referred back to committee.