LETTER: Concern about Parish Council speaking rules voiced

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

During my four-year term on the Ascension Parish Council rules for public speakers were in place which worked well.

These rules give each speaker three minutes to keep the speakers from rambling, but should not be used by elected officials to watch the clock instead of paying attention to the speaker.

Recently the Ascension Parish Council introduced amendments to the ordinance related to public comment to limit only five speakers to each agenda item and give the chairman authority to stop any speaker at will.

These amendments and the motives of those supporting them should be questioned by every citizen who values his or her right to free speech.

I believe these recent changes being proposed send a clear message that some on this Council do not want input from the public.  However, as servants of the people, it is the duty of every elected official to remember that the people should be respected and listened to.

At a recent public meeting while making comment I was rudely interrupted by the chairman.

I was later told by someone in attendance that a gesture made by our parish president preceded that interruption. 

Instead of making new rules for the public, I think some rules should be put in place for our elected officials to follow.  Let me suggest a few simple ABCs.

A- Allow prepared speakers to finish without interruption.

B- Be courteous. Treat everyone the same, and listen intently.

C- Come prepared to discuss the issue and stop attacking the speaker.

If our elected officials are able to take away the right of one citizen they take away the rights of all. 

Our loved ones died to defend these freedoms for us and our children. Some are working to take away our free speech.  Don't let them. Call your councilman. They will decide on May 7 at their next meeting in Donaldsonville if these new rules are put in place.  Ask them to vote no on amendments being offered. Help keep our right to free speech.

Cheryl Fontenot