In a 6-1 vote March 12, Bexley City Council upheld a rule council President Lori Ann Feibel had implemented last fall that enacts a 3-minute time limit when members of the public address council.

CORRECTION: The print and earlier online version of this story gave the wrong vote tally.

In a 6-1 vote March 12, Bexley City Council upheld a rule council President Lori Ann Feibel had implemented last fall that enacts a 3-minute time limit when members of the public address council.

Feibel and council members Steve Keyes, Monique Lampke and Richard Sharp, Mary Gottesman and Troy Markham in favor with Tim Madison casting the lone dissenting vote.

The March 12 vote was a follow-up to an in-depth discussion held at council's Feb. 2 retreat at Jeffrey Mansion. At that retreat, members discussed rules Feibel implemented that not only place time limits on public comments, but also on council and city administrators as well. The rules include having council members ask to be recognized by the president before speaking and limiting each council member's comments to five minutes.

Feibel said the rules she implemented were already in council's existing rules, but they had not been enforced in recent years. She also said the rules are included in the Roberts Rules of Order, a guide that offers a set of standards on how to conduct meetings, and that has been adopted by the Congress, city councils, school boards and other entities all over the country.

Feibel said she implemented the rules to make council meetings run in a more efficient manner and to promote civility.

She said she allows for extensions when there is a pressing issue that requires more time for a council member, city administrator or citizen to elaborate.

"I can be flexible if someone has more to add. It's very difficult for me to cut them," she said.

Having a time limit on comments "allows more people to have an opportunity," she said.

Keyes said he believes council meetings have been more professional since the rules have been in place and emphasized that residents have many opportunities to contact council members.

"There is, theoretically, an infinite number of ways that residents can reach council," Keyes said. "All of our email addresses are public. They can catch us before a meeting, after a meeting, call us for a phone call, grab us for coffee, any of that. That's all open forum."

Lampke said time limits encourage more orderly proceedings.

"I think that having time limits invites preparation," Lampke said. "I think sometimes when you have a longer time to talk, folks get repetitive and they talk and talk and simply fill the space."

Sharp said although he doesn't necessarily oppose the 3-minute rule, he wants to ensure residents are able to provide direct feedback to council members.

"I think it is important for a small community such as ours, for residents to feel they have input in our proceedings," Sharp said.

Gottesman said she believes the three-minute rule limits dialogue between residents and council members.

"I find it very confining to have residents make a statement or if they ask a question; it's like you can't interact with them any more," Gottesman said.

"You say, 'thank you,' they sit down."

Madison said the time limits inhibit open discussion.

"It is my personal opinion that these rules are intended to silence free speech on council and residents and to eliminate open debate on issues," he said. "I recognize that debate is uncomfortable for some on council, but debate is a necessary function of council to ensure that all have the ability to share their views and positions. The openness of council meetings is no more."

Markham said he would prefer limits not on how long people can speak, but how many times they can speak during a given meeting. He said consistency in enforcing rules is important, adding that council should make sure "those limits (are) clear and a part of our procedures."

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