City commission votes to move meeting start time to 10 a.m., add “ad hominem” attacks to prohibited speech


At their December 2 meeting, the Gainesville City Commission voted to move the start time for regular commission meetings to 10 a.m. They also voted to add “ad hominem attacks” to the section on disruptive behavior, and they voted to ask staff to come back with a future resolution to collect speaker cards from people who show up in person to speak.

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos made the motion to adopt the rule changes put forward by staff plus the two changes above. Commissioner Harvey Ward seconded the motion. 

City Clerk Omichele Gainey asked whether speaker cards would be “the only option” for people to be able to speak, and Hayes-Santos said, “My intent is that people sign up to speak… while people are speaking, they can still put cards in… So yes.”

Commissioner David Arreola said the presiding officer should be able to open the floor for additional comments, even if the people don’t have speaker cards. Hayes-Santos said he “definitely agree[d]” that the presiding officer should have discretion. 

Interim City Attorney Dan Nee was hesitant to add “ad hominem attacks” because it could be interpreted differently by different people. He suggested “something along the lines of ad hominem comments on other individuals’ character, irrelevant to the issue at hand,” then admitted that sounded “somewhat strained.” He added that the First Amendment “isn’t designed to protect you from unpopular comments.” 

Mayor Lauren Poe suggested, “the comment is disparaging and has no relation to the subject matter at hand.” Arreola pointed to language that’s already in the rules for debate for commissioners: “confine remarks to the question under debate, avoiding all personalities and indecorous language.” Nee proposed, “indecorous language directed at personalities, irrelevant to the issue at hand.” That language was added to the motion. 

There was a brief discussion about allowing for a lunch break, given the new 10 a.m. start time, but they decided not to add a formal lunch break because the presiding officer can always call a recess. Poe pointed out that the county commission doesn’t have a lunch break in their morning meetings, but he did not note that the county commission starts at 11:30 a.m., not 10:00 a.m.

During public comment on the motion, Nathan Skop said, “The problem is not the citizens; there is no need for new rules to impose draconian restrictions on citizens to limit public participation. The county commission doesn’t do that; the county commission doesn’t have the problems the city commission does because they treat people with respect, they listen to people, they don’t lecture people… they don’t require sign-in cards.”

Tana Silva said, “Obviously the same commissioners who voted for these rules last time are going to pass them, no matter what anyone says… Time and energy would be much better applied to work resolving real challenges through seeking and incorporating collective input from various perspectives… The worst idea is requiring speaker cards… and now the presiding officer could potentially decide who may speak if they don’t sign a card.” She pointed out that it makes no sense to ask speakers for an address or city district when people who don’t live in the city are allowed to speak. She also pointed out that commissioners were previously so worried about protecting that sort of private information that they removed their emails from the public portal

The motion passed 5-1 with Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker in dissent. Commissioner Reina Saco voted from Zoom because she had cold symptoms.

  • The fascists have spoken. What they need to collect is rent from the vagrants living in the door openings around the city.

    The single greatest benefit to the city will be when that idiot Poe goes away.

    All of you highly educated lemmings…keep on believing.

    What I hope is that they somehow manage to choke on the masks they continue to wear.

  • Public comments have special protections under the law. Someone will sue the city and win if Mayor Poe thinks he is a teacher in charge of a classroom. It will be amusing to see him flounder around and fail if he ever decides to run for public office again. He should move to California, Portland, or Seattle if he wants to continue his “career” in politics. It sounds like all of them are afraid of being trash-talked because they are lazy and have no other job skills. Someone should talk about Arreola’s horrible attendance record, since he’s trying to run for mayor now. He can’t even be an effective commissioner based on his attendance record, so how can he be mayor???? That’s just asking a question and not really an ‘attack’ in any rational legal mind.

  • Thank goodness the State Auditors has the COG Rulers on their radar. Could be a wild ride for them and GRU. Hopefully something on behalf of the citizens of Alachua County , COG and GRU ratepayers will be decided that will free us from the self entrenched ideology and decisions that has apparently cause so much financial harm to this community.

  • Another blatant attempt to mute citizen comment and hide their actions. Seems they proposed this just days before the state auditor dropped the H-bomb on these self-interested officials-not, rather: nuts (not leaders in any sense of the word). Just a coincidence huh? They’ll brag about how much they can do with massive Biden handouts while still increasing property tax max limits, fire fees, GRU rates, and as the report says, have no GRU transfer policy. Transfer should be ZERO for next several years at a min and all go to GRU debt. New commissioners needed immediately. If EVER the case for “throw the bums out”, IT IS NOW!

    • You’re right, but we’re surrounded by Marxist
      Commies and a bunch of people who want affordable
      Housing & free stuff.. maybe a bill from the legislature
      That mandates local governments must get smaller, not larger…and a moratorium on raising property taxes…

      • They want to Start the day later, take lunch brakes, and stifle citizen Comment…oh, and each get a helper.
        That helper should come out of their paycheck, not mine.

  • They’re still wearing the masks? Don’t they think
    That Vax shot they wanted to mandate on employees
    Works? The wearing of the masks makes them seem
    Less human…those masks are the perfect incubators
    For germs and viruses, they’re disgusting …oh!, they’re worried about the
    Omicron variant now!!!—-will their tyranny never end? It’s not an
    Ad hominem attack if I say they wear the stupid masks
    To hide their stupid faces because it’s true..

  • The ad hominem fallacy is only a fallacy if it doesn’t address the point being discussed. If the point being discussed is “Is Commissioner X acting beyond his authority?”, then stating that indeed he is, even using colorful language, is not fallacious. Conspiring to abridge our Amendment 1 rights to free speech and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances is a Federal crime.

  • regime change! The citizens of the city of Gainesville need a regime change!
    District 1 commissioner D D-W is the only non-socialist. GRU’s massive debt signals why Poe & his cadre must go!

  • “The presiding officer at their discretion can allow
    People to speak, etc.”…yeah, their shills can talk
    Forever. If what you say is against their group think,
    “You’re 3 minutes are up”!

  • Wishing Saco a speedy recovery. Everyone knows the common cold is a coronavirus. Vitamins, eating right, plenty of fresh air & water, & daily exercise
    Make for a strong immune system…staying healthy
    Is the best way to not get sick from Covid..

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