Gainesville citizens speak up about controversial handling of City Commission public comment rules

Published: Aug. 1, 2019 at 10:50 PM EDT
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Some thought there might be a second round of fireworks between Gainesville City commissioners and the citizens at Thursday's commission meeting. That's after the meeting two weeks ago had citizens yelling at commissioners and commissioners yelling back.

It ended up being quite calm partly because of increased Gainesville police presence in the chambers with 2 officers and even one outside for back-up. Still, people are upset about how the last meeting unfolded and had opinions about how it all went down.

Even two weeks later many citizens were still rumbling about the way Mayor Lauren Poe handled what he called "outbursts of clapping" which resulted in at least one person being asked to leave.

Jo Beaty who regularly attends City commission meetings was thrown out last time and explains why she thinks things got so fired up.

"What happened last time has been portrayed by some, and some citizens as an organized effort. There was nothing organized about it. Really what got out of hand was when several people clapped including me, I was singled out and thrown out. Then the rest of the citizenry were irate about what happened."

Others, however, say the backlash from citizens during public comment after that situation was unwarranted and everyone needs to follow the commission's rules.

Bruce Blackwell was at the last meeting and also attends meetings regularly, he said "I've been to a lot of meetings and I've never seen anything like this and I didn't expect it in Gainesville. But it's also part of what I think people are not learning, things like civics in school. They don't know how democracy is supposed to work, you can speak your piece but you have to obey orders. Somebody said well this is our building, well okay but there are rules. The white house is our building, but you can't just walk in there."

It's expected at the next general policy committee meeting on August 8th an agenda item will be focused on defining the rules for public comment, rules citizens want the commission to abide by as well.

Beaty said, "Mayor Poe has been clamping down on the quote on quote rules by which the commission operates or report to operate because they seem to be used against citizens and waived when it comes to the commission following their own rules."

Many citizens were present and took their allotted 3 minutes of time to address commissioners about a variety of topics but overall there were no loud outbursts from either side.