Time limit will help meeting move along

The Howell Township Council is correct to enforce a five-minute limit on speakers who have something to say to the governing body during the public comment portion of municipal meetings.

For years, the public comment portion of Howell council meetings has lasted for hours and has pushed back the council members’ discussion and action on agenda items until the early hours of the morning.

That is no way for the business of the municipality to be conducted.

We strongly support the right of citizens to bring their opinions, views and concerns to their elected officials. We believe the council chambers is an appropriate place for this type of give and take and we would never advocate for a system that eliminates public discourse.

However, setting limits and adhering to them is well within the council members’ right.

Under the council’s plan, one hour will be set aside at the start of each meeting for members of the public to comment on any issue (except for an ordinance being considered that evening which will have its own public hearing). Residents will have a maximum of five minutes to address the council.

Here are the types of people who generally come to a council meeting to be heard:

+ Political opponents of the council members who want to take potshots at those on the dais. Five minutes of uninterrupted time is enough to get that done. Take your shot and sit down. Council members should keep any response to the political attacks as brief as possible.

+ A citizen who has an issue – such as traffic or speeders on his street.

This person does not care about Howell’s political machinations. He doesn’t know the good guys from the bad guys, and he doesn’t want to know. He just wants to tell his elected officials about a problem and to ask for help. He should not have to sit through hours of political posturing waiting to be heard.

For this resident, five minutes should be enough time to summarize the problem and for the council to indicate that the matter will be dealt with appropriately.

+ Many Howell residents have spent significant time researching items of importance to the community. Their efforts have made a difference on a number of issues and they deserve the thanks of the community for making an effort on behalf of everyone.

However, if these residents have a presentation to make during a council meeting that they know will last more than five minutes, they should ask to be heard separately from the public comment portion. The council members should make every effort to accommodate them, even if the residents have something to say that will not flatter elected officials.

Some compromise and understanding is needed by everyone involved so that the business of the town can proceed in an orderly fashion.