Longtime activist Ernest Rucker blasted City Council president Maritza Davila on Tuesday night for introducing a measure that will bar one speaker from yielding time to another at public meetings.
“Council president, I was very, very disturbed to think that you will attempt to change the rules because you are afraid of what might come out of my mouth,” said Rucker. “It is amazing that I bring that much fear out of you. That you would come up with an ordinance just to address me.”
Rucker called Davila’s move a “cowardly act.” He accused her of running the council like a “dictatorship,” benefiting from vote-by mail fraud, and threatened to derail her chances of retaining her seat as president in six months.
“Changing this rule is only going to infuriate me,” said Rucker. “If you believe that you could shut me up with a trick like this, council president, you don’t know me well.”
Ordinance before the governing body states, “no time balance from any one person may be relinquished to another person.”
Some council members felt Rucker has been abusing the process by bringing in groups of people, who sign up to speak at the meetings only to yield their time to him. A speaker at a City Council meeting is limited to three minutes. He is able to double, triple, and quadruple his time by getting others to yield their time to him.
Davila did not respond to Rucker’s attack. However, he elicited a response when he accused her of harboring ambitions to run for mayor in two years.
Davila began to audibly laugh at Rucker’s accusation.
“Excuse me. Excuse me. This is my time. Madam president, would you please cease!” Rucker told her.
Davila later complained about lack of decorum and “disrespect” at meetings.
Later in the night, Davila said she spoke to five of her colleagues, who wanted to put in place the measure for efficiency.
Davila said the ordinance is not intended to target any specific individuals.
Some of her colleagues backed her up.
“I love freedom of speech, but at some point, free speech is abused,” said Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman.
Velez said there should be “respect” in the chamber. He has been accused of disrespecting his colleagues and breaking decorum at meetings by Davila over the past two years.
Velez said when one person hogs the microphone it keeps other speakers waiting.
“It’s election time,” said Flavio Rivera, councilman at-large, referring to the ward elections slated for May. He said some of the candidates running for office could abuse the time yield rule by bringing in dozens of their supporters to meetings to speak for far more than the allowed time allotment per speaker to further their campaigns. “Imagine every candidate, in every ward, doing this. We’ll never vote on anything. We’ll be here until 5 in the morning.”
Others said they were not privy to the conversation.
“We were not included,” said Lilisa Mimms, councilwoman at-large. Davila said she spoke to five council members.
The council will take a vote on the measure next Tuesday.
“It is sad to say that I have to stand here tonight to even bring this up with so many other important things in this city that need to be addressed,” said Rucker.