Monday, November 23, 2009

Montgomery proposes bill to enforce public meeting decorum; why not just simply empower security guards and cops?

After regular heckling and outbursts (video) from union workers during the state Senate oversight hearing last May, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery has introduced legislation to curb such behavior, reports Eliot Brown of the Observer.

It would bar the employer of anyone disrupting public meetings from bidding on any public contracts for five years, and allowing the state to drop those contracts still in progress.

Brown raises reasonable questions: the bill would be hard to implement and would not take aim at project opponents, who also can be rowdy.

I'd add that several AY supporters disrupting that meeting and others do not have employers bidding on public contracts.

A better solution

I think there's a much simpler solution: announce and enforce rules of decorum. Too often at public meetings related to Atlantic Yards that basic responsibility has been ignored. At the state Senate hearing, someone in charge--either the host Pratt Institute or the hearing chair, Senator Bill Perkins, or both--should have kept order.

And at the 8/23/06 public hearing held by the Empire State Development Corporation, many people talked past their three-minute limit, leading to heckling--and counter-heckling. Several people criticized the ESDC's management of the hearing. Only at the follow-up community forums was the time limit enforced by cutting off the speaker's microphone.

And during the public hearing this past July, security guards and cops were quick to maintain order.

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