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January 7, 2013

New in 2013: Common Council ends second public-comment period.

PLATTSBURGH — A tie-breaker vote was needed, but the City of Plattsburgh Common Council will no longer offer a second chance for the public to speak up as meetings wind down.

At the council’s recent organizational meeting, Councilor James Calnon (I-Ward 4) pushed to have the second public-comment period at each regular meeting removed. 

He said that opportunity is not usually used by the public, and when it is, it can be abused.

“People have said things that are just not true, and it’s frightening,” he said. “I think most things can be accomplished with one public-comment period. I don’t think we are inhibiting anyone’s ability to address us.”

Mark Tiffer (D-Ward 2) disagreed, saying that sometimes people arrive late at meetings, after the first public-comment period.

“I don’t want the perception to be that we are preventing the public from speaking to us,” he said.

Chris Jackson (D-Ward 6) agreed with Calnon, noting that Clinton County only has one comment period.

“If people feel that strongly about saying something at the end of a meeting, they can come back the next week,” he said.

George Rabideau (R-Ward 3) said he felt that only one comment period was needed.

“If someone has an ax to grind, they can grind it at the beginning of the meeting,” he said.

The vote to eliminate the second public comment period was tied, with Rabideau, Calnon and Jackson voting in favor and Tiffer, Timothy Carpenter (D-Ward 1) and Chris Case (D-Ward 5) voting against it.

Mayor Donald Kasprzak broke the tie by voting in favor of eliminating the period.

“I believe that we have been the most transparent and accessible government in the area for many years, and I don’t think eliminating this second public-comment period inhibits the public’s options to discuss issues with us, which they can do at the beginning of every meeting,” he said.

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