Public comment split approved


By Declan McDaniel/Orange County Tribune 

The Westminster City Council approved an ordinance to change the structure of oral communications at council meetings. On Wednesday, the council voted 3-2 to approve the proposed ordinance on its second reading to split up public comments into two groups: questions or comments pertaining to agenda items, and questions or comments that are unrelated to agenda items. 

Residents that desire to speak about agenda items would be allotted time at the beginning of the meeting, and any comments about miscellaneous issues would be discussed toward the end. Some Westminster locals feel that this item is unfavorable for citizens who want to speak their opinions to the council in an efficient manner. Resident D’Vorah Mariscal was not in favor of the item, seeing it as yet another attempt to make it more challenging to speak out.

“That is not fair to the residents that may have been coming for the very first time, they’re not aware that that might happen,” Mariscal said. “You’ve already taken away our right to speak five minutes down to three, now you want to take that further. I am completely and totally against that.”

Currently, all public comments are done before the council goes over the consent calendar, but Mayor Chi Charlie Nguyen suggested that the new ordinance would save time and prioritize the items on the agenda.

“You are here to voice your opinion on the agenda items… they don’t even stay for a minute to listen to what you said. All they do is they finish their speech and leave the room,” Mayor Nguyen said. “Why do they have the priority over you and me, the council and the city business? I think we are not silencing anybody, but we put our city business in front.”

Councilmember Carlos Manzo had a different perspective than Nguyen, aligning more with the residents who spoke out against the item. Manzo made the point that the issue could be looked at as a form of limitation, as it could be perceived as prioritizing one group over the other.

“At the end of the day, we are limiting public speech… We always encourage other residents to come to our city council meetings and speak up for their concerns, their praises, whatever it may be,” Manzo said. “For them, they may not have the time to come wait until 9:30, 10 at night to do so, and that is a form of limitation of freedom of speech.”

The ordinance will go into effect for the Westminster City Council meeting on Oct. 25.

Leave a Reply