One of the well-known critics of the handling of the move, Gary Pelphrey, also apologized to the commission at Tuesday’s meeting. He and a few other critics made such a ruckus by shouting at commissioners at the May 28 meeting after not being allowed to speak that they were escorted out by police.
As everybody who’s been paying attention knows, Pelphrey and his pals did not sign up for any of the 12 slots for speakers at the public comment segment of the meeting. All the slots were taken by supporters of the Braves move before the critics showed up to sign in. When they loudly refused to take no for an answer, they were shown the door, not surprisingly. As I observed in a previous column, the police escort provided a photo op unfavorable to Chairman Tim Lee, who ruled the group wouldn’t be heard after failing to sign up. In my view, it would have been better PR-wise to let one of the critics speak — even though they had done so before and their objections reported in the MDJ and other media. It was appropriate for Pelphrey to apologize.
Cupid went the extra mile, but despite her apology for the critics not being allowed to speak, she appropriately drove home the point that order must prevail. She correctly described last month’s shouting as “absolutely out of order,” and put the matter in proper perspective, saying, “I am all for public comment, but I am not for disorder.” Who can disagree?
Cupid again explained that the 12 speaking slots are assigned on a first come, first served basis. She also said three of the commissioners had talked privately about adding more speaking slots after the May 28 ruckus but decided not to change the rules.
The problem, commissioners, is not the number of speaking slots. Twelve speakers talking for the maximum five minutes will take up one hour. That seems a reasonable amount of time for public comment. The problem is that any group can reserve all the speaking time by showing up early enough and getting in line ahead of other groups.
Why not simply divide the 12 slots to accommodate opposing views? Allot six slots to “for” speakers and six slots to “against” speakers on any issue before the commission. That would give each side ample time and would insure that the commissioners hear both sides. This approach has plenty of precedent. For example, in the Georgia legislature as well as Congress, each side of the debate on a bill is allotted a certain amount of time.
Changing the time allotment would demonstrate that the Cobb commission is not bound by a set of its own rules but is serving the public in the best way possible.