Saturday, April 26th, 2008
New president tries to limit talk
By William Kincaid
Visitors to Celina City Council meetings will still be permitted to talk during discussions outside of the brief audience communication portion - at the discretion of council president Sophia Rodriguez.
City Council as a whole met this week to review their rules of conducting meetings. Most council members agreed to continue allowing the public to intervene during discussions as long as they're called upon and have something to offer.
But the newly appointed Rodriguez disagreed, stating that she doesn't like an overflow of information at her meetings and doesn't want to "open a can-of-worms."
"That's not how I like to run my meetings," she said.
In the past, public attendants often shared their opinion and feelings on subjects outside of the communication part of the meeting. For instance, councilman Bill Sell said that during a recent city project, council was benefited by the testimony of an affected citizen who provided information that he would have never thought about.
Such knowledgeable people, he said, should be treated like any other consultant brought in by the city to inform or clarify.
"Democracy is best served in places like Celina," he said.
Celina resident Don Gehle - who has been attending council meetings since 2002 - said he was never denied speaking during discussions until a few weeks ago. At a meeting about the proposed Pullman Bay Park land swap, Rodriguez told him that he would only be allowed to talk for a few minutes at the beginning.
Gehle told the newspaper he simply wanted to know what Ohio House Bill 119 was and how it came about. That bill included a provision included by Ohio District 77 Representative Jim Zehringer (R) to make the project possible.
Safety-Service Director Jeff Hazel said Celina's council meetings have a flexibility that bigger cities such as Indianapolis don't.
Historically, Celina meetings are not rigid, Councilman Rick Bachelor added.
He also told Rodriguez that she can always bring a halt to public participation by slamming her gavel down.
Assistant city attorney Angela Nickell also agreed with direct public communications when dealing with issues.
Rodriguez eventually concured with council members, who also mentioned that they didn't need her permission to engage or listen to those outside of the audience portion.
But Rodriguez did not agreed to councilman June Scott's request to use less formal titles when addressing others. He told her she could simply call him Mr. Scott - in lieu of the uppity-sounding councilman Scott.
She said every council member was elected by a majority of popular vote and should be held to that responsibility through title.
Council members also supported the inclusion of the politically correct language. Currently, the council rules state council members must address the council chair as Mr. President or Mr. Chairman.
An amended section would also include Madame President and Madam Chairman.