Public Speakers, Gallery Observers Changing Game At City Council Meetings

By Josh Resnek

It used to be, not so long ago, that the public speaking session available before the city council’s twice monthly meetings were sparsely attended, or not all.

Since the election last November, the public speaking segment of the meeting has become a bell weather representing how many voters are thinking.

The mayor winning over Fred Capone by a slim margin (210 votes) last November appears to have emboldened many residents to come to city hall and to have their say.

What they say, and how it is said during the public speaking segment of the meetings, has caused the city council to do a double take recently.

At the last special meeting of the council where it was decided to cut the mayor’s longevity from $40,000 a year to $2,500, six speakers derided the city government and called upon the city council to get with it and to do something to make things right.

Recently, the public speakers have been led by local resident and longtime businessman John Puopolo.

“I urge you to strike the longevity pay. The mayor doesn’t deserve it. He shouldn’t have taken it. It is not right. You are duty bound to vote it down. I urge you to do this,” Puopolo told the council at the last meeting.

Longtime resident and city employee Maria Bussle pleaded for the council to watch over what they are giving out, and especially to the mayor.

“You are pleasing yourselves and the administration instead of

the taxpayers,” she said. “The Administration thinks we are all clueless,” she added.

Another speaker, Paula Sterite remained calm mand composed but her words piqued the council.

“The mayor’s salary is more than generous. The overpayment of $190,000 to him is a fortune.”

Former Councilor and mayoral candidate Capone appeared. He spoke rousingly, with anger and intensity.

“Longevity pay is a disgrace. Repeal does not go far enough. Fraudulently took 180,000 from the taxpayers. As your constituent I can demand that you act. This body has an obligation to hold the mayor accountable. The 180,000 must be returned to the people,” Capone told the council.

“Please do the right thing. Please make the mayor repay the money he should not have taken. Do the right thing. Have the mayor repay the money he’s taken,” he said.

Nearly all the speakers during the meetings for the past several months have received hearty rounds of applause from the gallery.

The public gallery has never been more well attended in recent times.

The gallery becomes so involved, that the councilors have felt attacked.

This is something new for them.

Gallery observers shout at the councilors, laugh at them, mock them and frankly, it is quite effective except for the most arrogant of the councilors.

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