Fredonia sets limits on loudspeakers | News, Sports, Jobs
Fredonia’s board opted to strictly enforce a three-minute time limit for audience speakers this week, a move that has upset Mayor Douglas Essek.
Trustees EvaDawn Bashaw and Scott Johnston supported the limit, which is mentioned at the start of each public comment session by Clerk AnneMarie Johnston. The limit is supposed to be three minutes if someone speaks on their behalf, but five minutes if they speak on behalf of a group.
The limit was enforced against Susan Parker, who presented the council with information about the legalization of marijuana, and former village attorney Sam Drayo and ex-mayor Athanasia Landis, who were critical of proposed changes to the local government.
Admin Johnston noted that with an upcoming public hearing on cannabis dispensaries, now is a good time to enforce the limit, as this event on October 13 is expected to have plenty of speakers.
Essek had none of that. “Unless there is a large group of 50 people here, I just don’t understand this need” he said.
“It shouldn’t be up to you every time it suits you” said administrator Evadawn Bashaw. “We’re going to join it or not… we have a public hearing coming up where we know there will be quite a few people here.”
Essek asked her if she thought speakers at the hearing should follow the three-minute rule. Bashaw said she thought they should.
“I don’t agree with that” replied the mayor. “I believe that when there are important issues, the public should be allowed to say what they think. “
Speaking after Parker and Landis were cut off, Drayo began, “The three-minute rule must be flexible. There are some important things that need to be said… you can take a 45 minute executive session, and we can sit here and wait and wait and wait and wait, but we have important things to say. We’re not going to talk for half an hour. If we take four or five minutes, you should be ready to hear from your citizens. “
When AnneMarie Johnston tried to stop Drayo after three minutes, he got into an argument with Bashaw. “It’s a point of order, we arrested everyone. “ he said. “We have to stop you. “
“I am a citizen of this village. You are the servant of the village. You are not the dictator of the village ”, Drayo retorted.
“You do not represent the village. You represent yourself. We represent the village ”, Bashaw said. Essek soon struck his hammer several times but the argument continued for a few more seconds.
Scott Johnston and Bashaw continued to support application of the rule, and Essek told them it should be changed. The trustees said they had no problem with longer deadlines, but stressed that a certain limit must be applied.
Drayo’s sparring with admins on the three-minute rule is nothing new to him.
In an OBSERVER article from August 27, 2019, Drayo criticized local laws for a vote in a meeting chaired by Administrator James Lynden as deputy mayor, in Landis’ absence. Administrator Michael Barris, who did not run for re-election that year but is back on the ballot in November, called for limiting his time to three minutes.
Lynden said Drayo’s time had passed three minutes and, after another citizen then spoke of unrelated issues, attempted to shut down public comments. Drayo said he let this man go on so as not to hold him back, but his own comments were not made.
Essek, who was then an administrator, believed Drayo should be allowed to speak for as long as he wanted.
Lynden said he wanted to obey the rules of the order allowing three minutes per person. When several members of the audience each offered to give Drayo the microphone for three minutes, Lynden gave him five minutes as he spoke on behalf of a group at the time.
Clerk Johnston cut Drayo off after five minutes and 38 seconds, and he asked to continue.
“You had your personal time, you had time allocated for a group. Thank you so much,” said Lynden, who then firmly shut down public comments.
Drayo retorted, “This is not being open-minded, Mr. Chairman.