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City commission doesn’t abide by its own “simple” rules for citizen comments

BY JENNIFER CABRERA / JULY 24, 2019

As described in our previous article about the July 18 Gainesville City Commission meeting, there is a great deal of hostility between the city commission (particularly Mayor Poe, who chairs the meetings) and specific citizens who frequently attend the meetings. In the July 18 meeting, several people were ejected for applauding another person who was speaking during the citizen comment period.

At that meeting, Poe said, “The city commission has a set of adopted rules. And they are incredibly brief and simple: no cheering, no jeering, no outbursts. Those are the rules. That’s it. That’s it. That’s all we have. And that’s the simple set of rules that we ask everybody to abide by.”

However, earlier in the day, a young girl participated in the citizen comment for the funding recommendations for Community Development Block Grant and HOME funds. You can see what happened here (scroll to 3:21:24 and watch the next 15 seconds).

Not only was the applause allowed, but Commissioner Helen Warren participated in the applause (the video only shows Ward, Poe, and Warren; Ward and Poe did not clap). Nobody was scolded for applauding.

Clearly, the rules do not apply to “everybody.” When the city commission discusses their rules on August 8, they should consider whether they’d rather have a chamber in which a young girl is met with stony silence or a chamber in which those attending can indicate their support (or lack of it) for any citizen’s comments, as long as that behavior does not become disruptive. Perhaps they should talk to their colleagues on the county commission, which has a much friendlier atmosphere without draconian rules.

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