New Time Limits Set at City Council Meeting
by Molly O’Brien
Members of the public will be limited to five minutes of speaking time during the public portion of City Council meetings, now that council President Rebecca Escobar plans to enforce a little-used provision in the city code.
At the March 5 city council meeting, New Brunswick City Council President Rebecca Escobar implemented a new rule going forward that would limit remarks from the public during the meetings, but not limiting the number of times a person could speak.
President Escobar explained that municipal code 2.08.150 says anyone wishing to speak at a public body going forward will “limit his or her statement to five minutes unless further time is granted by the council.”
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking,” said Council President Rebecca Escobar. “We need to start looking at the way we conduct ourselves. We are examples to our children… we are examples to our community. We need to start working together. We need to put our personal agendas aside.”
President Escobar told she had never before enforced the regulation at the meetings.
“Since I am supposed to be an example, starting tonight I am going to abide by that regulation. If I see the need to give you extra time, that is open to the council for discussion. I thank you for your participation.”
When the floor opened for public comment, Tormel Pittman, a city resident who speaks frequently at council meetings, had questions about how the new rule would work. He asked whether residents would be able to speak more than once during meetings.
Escobar said yes, speakers “could come back.”
“You need to stress that,” Pittman said. “We had the impression that it was five minutes and then we go home. ”
Councilmember Kevin Egan, serving as Council President for the March 19 meeting, announced speakers were not allowed to return to the microphone during the public portion of the meeting.
New Brunswick Public Information Officer Jennifer Bradshaw later told Raritan River Review that said that the number of times a resident can speak at the microphone is “at the discretion of the council president.”