By Josh Resnek
Angry residents lining up to speak before council sessions say they have been humiliated by the push back from elected public officials who should be welcoming them, instead of trying to limit their comments.
Many residents who find the need to speak before the DeMaria controlled council have told the Leader Herald they are embarrassed for themselves and for the city when they get up to speak.
Some, like 30 year city employee Maria Bussell claims she is fearful after speaking.
“I don’t want to lose my city job or be retaliated against,” she told the Leader Herald She said the efforts to stifle free speech had become a public embarrassment.
John Puopolo, the unelected leader of the public speaking contingent agreed
“Outsiders are making fun of the city. The impression is given by the actions of our elected public officials that the city is out of control with racism, sexism, municipal mismanagement and theft,” said Puopolo
Puopolo has been a leader and a powerful voice among those coming to have their say at the public speaking portion of the council meetings for the past several months.
During a series of recent council meetings as many as 20 speakers have lined up to have their say regarding Councilor Anthony DiPierro’s racism and with demands for him to resign as well as those wishing to speak about the mayor and how he should be made to pay back $180,000 in longevity funds he owes the city – now that they’ve been stripped from him.
Efforts by Council President John Hanlon, Councilors Richard Dell Isola and DiPierro to keep to the 10 minute speaking lim- it have been futile, especially given the passion of the moment driving residents to line up to speak out.
DiPierro said last Monday: “You people are classless,” referring to the public speakers.
Dell Isola has complained about high school speakers using a cell phone to read a short speech calling for DiPierro’s resignation.
“They’re not allowed to be using cell-phones,” Dell Isola complained to Hanlon at one meeting where he was using a cell phone during the meeting.
Hanlon then agreed that was true.
“I’ve been told by the lawyers it is not allowed,” Hanlon said at a meeting several weeks ago.
“What lawyers? Who is he being given talking points by?” Puopolo asked.
DiPierro winces every time he hears his name mentioned, and then forces Hanlon to invoke the non-existing rule that no public speaker is allowed to mention a councilor’s name.
The city ordinance governing the public speaking portion of the meetings is absent of any such requirement.
Such folly is having a decidedly negative effect on the reputation of the council.
Hanlon, DiPierro, Dell Isola, and the remainder of the city council except for Councilors Mike Marchese and Stephanie Smith, treat the public speaking portion of the council meetings as though it is a privilege for residents to speak in public before the council.
“It is not a privilege,” said Puopolo. “It is a right.”