Passionate debate is the cornerstone of any constructive meeting, but defining the line between concern and inappropriate conduct has been an issue in itself during past Harrison Town/Village Board meetings.
So as a new administration held its first meeting of the year on Jan. 5, Harrison Mayor/Supervisor Ron Belmont and his all-Republican board decided reading the rules could help clear the air about what will be expected from concerned citizens during 2012.
"It's all about respect," said Belmont, who noted that none of the rules have actually been changed, just publicly clarified.
Belmont read aloud rules that include a limit of five minutes for each speaker at the podium to discuss key issues and the importance of staying on topic and holding off general discussion until the end of the meeting. Speakers are also asked to state whether they are in favor of or against any proposed change when first addressing the board.
The town board had considered making small changes to the public participation policy at meetings last fall after several outbursts and arguments may have crossed the line to inappropriate. Although the rules were never actually changed, meeting policy became a key topic during the November elections. Belmont and several other candidates vowed to make an effort to better control town meetings while discussing the topic in October.
Now that he has officially taken office, Belmont said he plans to enforce the rules that are already in existence.
"There was a lot of hearsay that I was going to change the rules and people wouldn't be allowed to speak," Belmont said. "I just wanted to say the rules are the same—it's all about respect."