I Don’t Get It!

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CENTRAL FIRST BLUEb larger    How is it that Mayor Shelton can allow the City Council to take a vote on an item on the Council agenda and NOT allow public comment?  I don’t get it!  Louisiana state law at R.S. 42:14 (D) says: “[E]ach public body conducting a meeting which is subject to the notice requirements of R.S. 42:19(A) shall allow a public comment period at any point in the meeting prior to action on an agenda item upon which a vote is to be taken.”  So how can the Mayor NOT allow public comment before a vote?  I don’t get it!
    Dozens of Central citizens showed up at Tuesday’s Council meeting prepared to speak against a proposed 175-house development across the street from the high school. Some of them even discussed the possibility of the item being deferred, which would require a vote of the Council. They came anyway, taking time away from their lives and their families, because they wanted to ask the Council NOT to defer it, but to vote against it, and give their reasons.  They were given no opportunity to have their three-minute public comment, yet a vote WAS taken to defer the item.  I don’t get it!
    I have it on good authority that the Council and social media had been inundated with messages in opposition to this development. There was no doubt that there would be much public opposition expressed at the meeting during public comment.
    I asked the Mayor after the meeting why no vote was allowed.  His response was that public comment did not have to be allowed and stated: “The question was asked of Counsel before we got here whether we had to allow public comment.” That’s the other thing I don’t get, and perhaps the most interesting thing in all of this. Why would the Mayor go out of his way to call the City Attorney, who was not at the meeting, and ask BEFORE the meeting whether public comment had to be allowed on a deferral? It almost seems like Mayor Shelton arrived at the Council meeting determined not to hear the opinion of the citizens. I don’t get it!
    So let’s assume the City Attorney found some “wiggle room,” (which I don’t believe), in the statute above that seems to clearly state that public comment is always allowed before any vote. State law addresses that at RS 42:12(A) “It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens be advised of and aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy. Toward this end, the provisions of this Chapter shall be construed liberally.
    Why would Mayor Shelton and the City Attorney be looking for excuses to PREVENT public participation when the law actually asks that such rules be interpreted liberally IN FAVOR of the rights of the citizens? I don’t get it!
    But perhaps I’m just reading all this stuff wrong and the state law actually DOESN’T mean that citizens are to be afforded public comment before a vote is taken.  Perhaps state law DOESN’T require that public participation laws be construed liberally in favor of the citizens. Perhaps….I don’t get it! Decide for yourself.