Time Has Come Today Jan08


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Time Has Come Today


Yesterday, Roselle Park’s council amended its by-laws to limit the time that members from the public have to speak during the public portion of a Mayor & Council meeting.

Not that big of a problem.

There are those who disagree with the time limit as an infringement on free speech. That could be argued but first, some history.

The municipality’s latest by-laws never explicitly gave a time frame for the public to speak, it did hold it to the discretion (not whim) of the chair. Common practice for the past few years was 10 minutes with an additional five (5) added if council interacted with the speaker, for a total of 15 minutes.

This was a very respectful practice by sitting mayor Joseph DeIorio who allowed the time limit to fluctuate and would occasionally allow the person’s time to exceed the 15 minute mark. This was most noticed in the summer of 2009 when residents from our neighboring town of Roselle came to Roselle Park Mayor & Council meetings to address an issue of shared services. In Roselle people are allowed three (3) minutes with an extension of time at the discretion of the Chair and they have to stand. In Roselle Park not only was the time allowed to exceed for some speakers but they got to sit and relax.

Now, there were times when the time went over limit but recently, especially at the end of 2009 when the mayor was not present and another council member was the Chair, the time was being cut short. This can be noted when one resident in particular, Glenn Marczewski, went to speak before council. On more than one occasion, while Mr. Marczewski was speaking, the Borough Clerk, Mrs. Doreen Cali, not the Chair announced the 10 minute mark, followed by the Chair, once being Michael Yakubov and the other being Larry Dinardo, told the speaker his time was up.

It is not know if the speaker was the one directing the Borough Clerk but the impression was that the Borough Clerk, not the Chair, was in charge. Regardless of whether it was planned by the Chair at the time or not, the Chair ended up looking like a puppet.

The time limit was a measure put in place to give everyone notice of the time allotted to the public. And wouldn’t you know it, the very first person from the public, who happened to be Glenn Marczewski, got their time limit taken from them. The mayor stopped Mr. Marczewski at the 4:40 mark, telling him his time was up.

Having the rules is good. Applying them seemed to have started off on the wrong foot.

And then comes councilwoman Larissa Chen-Hoerning to the rescue. A simple gift was given to council and the public – a timer. It took the measurement of time out of the hands of either the public or the Chair, of the Borough Clerk for that matter, and made it so everyone can see.

Hopefully an apology could be made to Mr. Marczewski for the unfair removal of his time.

To be fair, Mr. Marczewski was not the most amenable person at times to speak before council. His disgust in the time limit came out abrasive to council, but, that is his right. Simply because council did not like what Mr. Marczewski had to say means they can prevent him from using up the rights established by council to say it.  Free speech is not meant to protect the speech you agree with, it’s meant to protect that speech you hate.

Congrats to councilwoman Chen-Hoerning for her clear headed, yet effective manner, in which she helped protect the first amendment rights of residents.