Democracy Prevails in Council Vote

Councilman Robert Bresenhan urged the governing body to reject a plan that would be viewed as an attempt to stifle critics.

RAHWAY — The City Council shot down an attempt to silence political dissent when eight members voted against an ordinance proposed by Mayor Samson Steinman, who wanted to stop broadcasting the public comments portion of the governing body’s meetings.

Long an irritant to some elected officials, the public comments portion of council meetings frequently provides a forum for political opponents to engage in grandstanding and criticism.

After a discussion on the matter, however, eight representatives voted to kill the plan to stop those comments from being aired on cable television while Councilman James Baker abstained.

Steinman told the change was proposed after a resident complaining at the September meeting made remarks that were considered unsuitable to be broadcast.

“The mayor denied that putting an end to recording public comments was a move to quash public criticism of city officials,” the website reported, but a number of residents — including some members of the governing body — disagreed.

Councilmen Robert Bresenhan and Michael Cox, as well as Councilwoman Jennifer Meier, expressed concern that the democratic process requires full disclosure of all opinions expressed by the public.

“While I believe the Mayor had the best of intentions, in principle I think it is the wrong thing to do,” said Bresenhan, who moved to put the matter to rest with a vote. “There are other ways to achieve the goal of censoring vulgarity, such as a 15-second delay like they use on talk radio.”

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