New ordinance set for Americus city council meetings - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

New ordinance set for Americus city council meetings

City attorney Jimmy Skipper City attorney Jimmy Skipper
Reverend Mathis Wright Reverend Mathis Wright
AMERICUS, GA (WALB) - Anyone wishing to address the Americus City Council may have to first get their approval to speak.

Some residents in Americus worry about their freedom of speech after the city council passed a new ordinance that limits the public comments at council meetings.

"Anytime that someone has to pre-approve what I'm going to talk about then it's a violation of my freedom of speech," said Reverend Mathis Wright of the NAACP.

City officials want people to rest easy.

The new ordinance allows citizens to talk about items on the council's agenda. Comments on other issues must be submitted to the chief administrative officer who will then forward it to the council.

If three council members approve, the issue will be placed on a later agenda which would allow citizens to speak at that meeting.

"Majority of the city council certainly thinks that enhances the ability of the citizens to let their voices be heard on items that the city council is actually considering," said city attorney Jimmy Skipper.

The old ordinance did not allow citizens to speak on items already on the agenda. Skipper says the new one will allow the people to be heard on many more issues and preserves their freedom of speech.

"The business of the city is to hear what the people have to say about particular items on the agenda and to decide what others issues need to be on the agenda at a later time so that's the way it'll work," said Skipper.

Skipper says council meetings are different than public hearings--where the public has a right to speak. The open meetings act allows people to be present during city council meetings.

"It's up to the city council to decide whether or not they want to hear from citizens in a regular meeting of the city council," said Skipper.

So for now, that privilege is preserved in this city.

Copyright 2014 WALB. All rights reserved.
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