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Keep Your Dissent Timid Under New N.Y. Town’s Meeting Rules

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Unread 03.10.13, 06:23 AM
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Keep Your Dissent Timid Under New N.Y. Town’s Meeting Rules

03.09.13 11:00 PM

A Long Island town has a new law that won’t allow citizens to boo or hiss their disapproval of proceedings during council meetings.

CBS 2 of New York reports the five-member Riverhead town council approved the no-booing resolution when it adopted rules of procedure at its March 5 meeting.

One councilman voted against the new rule, saying: “I don’t really need somebody or a policy telling me how I should behave in public.” The measure passed 4-1 anyway.

The council in the 33,000-person town admitted it intends to enforce the rule only with words, since the resolution provides no penalty for transgressors. If you “engage in any disruptive demonstration, booing or otherwise disrupt the formality of a Town Board meeting,” you’ll simply be told to quit.

Many American towns and county governments have similar clauses in their rules of procedure; others cover civil-but-disruptive dissent under ordinances, which can be enforced with penalties.

In Riverhead, every council meeting begins with an invocation, and the council is more generous than many municipal governments with its five-minute speaking limit during each meeting’s public comments portion.

Perhaps the local attention Riverhead has gotten over its disruption clause actually serves to illustrate the overhaul that’s needed for so many other municipalities’ rules of procedure.

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