Freedom of Speech, Meeting Rules and Current Events

I’ve seen an increasing willingness to eliminate freedom of speech. ¬†Earlier today, several posts on a discussion board were removed, ironically, based on a non-existent violation. ¬†Given the nature of the internet and sometimes litigious nature of people, I won’t use the name of the forum, other than to say it was not Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. ¬†The big three have actually been pretty kind to me over the years and I have yet to experience real censorship.

Regardless, I was disappointed to bring up the subject of free speech on a forum as a discussion item. ¬†I wanted to know whether people, in general, felt free speech should be protected. ¬†Lately, it seems free speech is only protected if the listeners find it agreeable. ¬†I don’t want to protect hate speech, but there are many shades of opinion between “Good Morning” and something everyone would see as communication encouraging violence. ¬†Opinions never offend me, but it does offend me when I feel someone or some idea is being suppressed, simply because the listeners don’t like a message.

Think a little about rules for discussion. ¬†Adding “difficult to meet” requirements to speak or limiting time is all a kind of censorship/control, in my opinion. ¬†When is this unreasonable? ¬†Recognizing something might mean suppressing public input or suppressing an idea entirely, is important. ¬†If I can tell someone they have a right, but create an unreasonable requirement, the result is the same. ¬† In my opinion, discussion rules should improve order and encourage sharing of ideas in a civil fashion. ¬†If it takes a little longer to listen…well, this is what moderators or those elected to represent are expected to do.


In Fernandina, the following is a “proposed” change to the way commissioners are allowed to present information and prior submission of any material used. ¬†Personally, have some experience sitting and was on the commission when the first version of this passed. ¬†Rules for submission are worth considering, but what is the purpose? ¬†Any meeting should be a place to encourage information. ¬†Logistically, it is difficult to hand information to a City Clerk, just prior to a meeting. ¬†Agendas are usually finalized the week prior, so adding more is inconsiderate, but making it impossible, is a mistake as well. ¬†14 days prior is unrealistic. ¬†Running a poll on a local group, consensus appeared to center on 4 days prior to a meeting or a Thursday or Friday submission of information. ¬†A cutoff of 3PM on either day would be a realistic cutoff to submit something for a Tuesday meeting, but I can also see commissioners with added information available and a logic to allowing additions after the cutoff time. ¬†So, instead of making the cutoff firm, make it about consideration for staff and understand giving short notice might have an impact on the effectiveness of a presentation or acceptance by other commission members or public unable to review. ¬†As for the time limit, I’m not in favor of limiting time presentation other than allowing a Mayor to have discretion to cut it short if a presentation runs over 10 minutes. ¬†The Mayor keeps a meeting moving forward and should have the ability to move discussion forward if no new points are being made….or simply at the Mayor’s discretion.

Scheduled for discussion August 7th, 2018…

RESOLUTION 2018-112

A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF FERNANDINA BEACH, FLORIDA AMENDING RULES OF PROCEDURE FOR THE CITY COMMISSION BY PROVIDING FOR RESTRICTIONS ON ADDING AGENDA ITEMS WITH SHORT NOTICE; PROVIDING FOR DEADLINES FOR INFORMATION SUBMITTED BY COMMISSIONERS FOR REVIEW AT COMMISSION MEETINGS; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE.

WHEREAS, on May 1, 2012, the City Commission adopted Resolution 2012-70 establishing Rules of Procedure for the City Commission; and

WHEREAS, the City Commission wishes to amend its Rules of Procedure by providing restrictions on adding agenda items with short notice and providing deadlines for Commissioners to provide information for discussion at Commission meetings.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF FERNANDINA BEACH, FLORIDA, THAT:

SECTION 1. It is hereby proposed that Section 6.3 of the City Commission Rules of Procedure, be amended to read as follows:

6.3 Agenda. All discussion items (not resolutions or ordinances) and presentations shall be added to Commission agendas through the City Manager’s Office in accordance with deadlines for submission approved by the City Manager. Only discussion items related to health, safety and welfare may be added to a Commission agenda with short notice. Presentations shall be limited to ten (10) minutes unless the City Manager or a majority of the City Commission waives or alters the time limit.

SECTION 2. It is hereby proposed that the City Commission Rules of Procedure, be amended to add a new section 6.4 which shall read as follows:

6.4 Information Provided by Commissioners. Any and all documents, information, memoranda, research materials and agenda item backup materials must be submitted to the City Manager and/or City Clerk no later than fourteen (14) calendar days prior to the City Commission meeting date at which the particular issue will be discussed or considered by the City Commission.

SECTION 3. This Resolution shall be effective immediately upon passage.

ADOPTED this 7th day of August, 2018.

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