By TEREASA NIMS
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK — Many residents are angered by the City Council’s 5-1 vote in a special meeting Monday changing the council meeting format that some see as a way to muzzle citizens.
The three noticeable changes were residents’ comment time being cut in half, the placement of comments and the elimination of comments from councilors just before the adjournment of the meetings.
Under the former agenda format, citizens had three minutes near the beginning of the meeting to comment on agenda items that the council was voting on. Near the end of the meeting they had five minutes for comments and questions about anything. Yet, council members often didn’t respond to comments.
The new format allows less time, but some think it buys them quality time.
Now, Keenan said, citizens have four minutes to talk about anything, Councilman Bob Keenan said. However, like before, that time includes the council members’ comments to the citizens’ comments and questions.
There is more opportunity for interaction from the council with the citizens under the new format, Keenan said.
Keenan, who on Tuesday, was a bit reluctant that he voted for the change, said he was happy to know that Mayor William Matakas said he won’t be a tyrant on the time.
“If the time runs out, the mayor said he is not going to be as stringent as cutting them off if they are in the middle of saying something,” Keenan said.
Councilman Angelo DeGiulio cast the lone vote against the item, saying it limited citizens’ comments.
“I just don’t think that is fair,” DeGiulio said.
At Tuesday’s regular council meeting, resident Walter Jordanck asked if the change was “set in stone.”
Council members and City Attorney Joe Corvaia agreed the Receivership Transitionary Advisory Board, consisting of former Emergency Manager Joyce Parker and two residents, could veto the item.
City Clerk Mike Mizzi said the format change is not unique, saying it has changed four times during his tenure in Allen Park, which has been more than seven years.
Former Councilwoman Marci DeGiulio agreed that the format has changed in the past.
“But never by this much, where it limits citizen comments,” she said.
City Administrator Karen Folks said the new agenda format is comparable to other cities’ agenda formats, citing Riverview.
“It certainly doesn’t seem like a very big hit here in Allen Park,” Jordanck said.
The moving of the public comments to after organizational business and before the consent agenda has some residents upset.
“Our comments should be after the resolutions,” said resident Al Wojczynski, referring the the new placement of comments. “Otherwise we’re only commenting on (the city administrator’s) comments.”
(Tereasa Nims can be reached at [email protected].)