Council president Maritza Davila succeeded in passing a controversial ordinance or local law that bars speakers at City Council meetings from yielding time to each other.
The ordinance adopted on Feb. 11 states “no time balance from any one person may be relinquished to another person.”
“We must continue to have order so we’re able to conduct business in an orderly fashion. We’ve never stated we want to shun the community,” said Davila. “Everyone has their three minutes.”
Political activist Ernest Rucker had taken advantage of the old rules that allowed one speaker to give up his three minutes of speaking time to another. Over the past months, Rucker brought a number of speakers to council meetings, had them sign up to speak, and each yielded their time to him when called to the microphone. He had vehemently opposed Davila’s ordinance. However, Rucker was a no-show during the public hearing to adopt the ordinance. No one spoke during the public hearing for the ordinance.
Council members voted 5-2 to approve the measure.
Council members Al Abdelaziz, Shahin Khalique, Flavio Rivera, Luis Velez, and Davila voted in favor.
“We’re allowing people to come to the chamber and express themselves,” said Velez. “There’s a point when we have to put order in our chamber.”
Rivera feared candidates running for office in the May elections would bring dozens of people to the council meetings and take up time.
Council members Ruby Cotton and Lilisa Mimms voted against the measure. Council members Michael Jackson and William McKoy were not present during the vote.
“It’s the people’s chamber and people should be allowed to voice their opinion,” said Mimms.
Rucker spoke hours after the ordinance was passed. He said he intentionally avoided speaking at the public hearing for the ordinance. He accused council members of “denying the public” their “right to freedom of speech.”
The new law comes into effect 20 days after passage.