Monday, May 20, 2013


Changes to the Citizens Forum at Rockville Mayor & Council meetings are on the agenda at tonight's Mayor & Council meeting at City Hall.

Possible changes include the ability of citizens to utilize a new document camera, to enhance their presentation.

They also could include a step towards restoration of dialogue during Citizens Forum, setting time limits on council questions and citizen answers. This would replace the recent policy of the council not engaging the speaker directly, but commenting during a formal response time when all citizens have completed their testimony.

This would be an improvement, as the current format allows councilmembers to slam a citizen after his or her remarks, but does not provide that citizen the opportunity to rebut the accuracy of the official's statements.

Other changes include putting the 3-minute time limit in the policy, allowing the mayor to remove disruptive citizens and encouraging citizens to submit written testimony.

Of course, written testimony is always preferred by politicians, as the live, public setting of Citizens Forum draws more attention, and can bring out other citizens who would otherwise be unaware of an issue. Best to keep such controversies "off-line."

But that defeats the whole purpose of Citizens Forum. Just as the current ban on back-and-forth dialogue reduces accountability, and puts the citizen at a disadvantage, with elected officials guaranteed to get the last word.

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