Written by Joe Rizza Friday, 16 October 2009 00:00
Residents Sal Cataldo and Bill Urianek have been attending Mineola Village Board meetings for nearly four decades, but last Wednesday’s may have been their last, at least while the new rules and procedures for the public meetings instituted by the village board are in place.
Last Wednesday, the first meeting with the new rules was held and was adjourned approximately 15 minutes after the public portion of the meeting started with no member of the public addressing the board. It had to be a first for Mineola.
The new rules and procedures for the public portions of the meetings call for members of the public to fill out a form, available in the front of the meeting room. The form asks for the resident’s name and address and “Village Business to Be Addressed.” Speakers are only allowed to speak on issues pertinent to the Village of Mineola for five minutes on a given topic. If speakers wish to address an issue other than village business, they must give a short explanation of its relevancy.
Urianek said later that it was the shortest meeting he has ever attended in the nearly 40 years he has been going to meetings as he doesn’t remember one meeting in which nobody from the public addressed the board.
Since 2003, when Jack M. Martins became mayor of Mineola, members of the public were allowed to address the board for as long as they wanted, for as many times as they wanted on any subject and all the comments were televised.
However, in March, the public comments were taken off the air because the board felt some comments made by some members of the public were inappropriate and potentially slanderous.
Mayor Martins and the board recently decided to put the public portion of the meetings back on the air, but with the new rules of procedure in place.
Cataldo and Urianek both feel the new format will keep people from speaking at the public meetings by limiting the subjects they can talk about. The new rules ask that residents who wish to address the board keep their comments focused on issues pertaining to the Village of Mineola.
Last Wednesday, following the board work session, the public meeting commenced with the mayor and the trustees giving their reports. When it came time for public comment, no member of the public submitted a form to speak. Before the board could adjourn the meeting, Cataldo asked if he could make a statement, which the mayor allowed.
“After 38 years, the time has come for me to stop coming to meetings,” Cataldo said, adding that he feels his First Amendment rights have been violated by the new rules. Cataldo was referring to freedom of speech.
In response, Mayor Martins said the residents are allowed to address the board about issues pertinent to the Village of Mineola. Residents want to hear about issues related to the village, the mayor maintained, as he defended the board’s decision to implement the meeting procedures.
“We welcome anyone to speak if they want to speak on something village-related. That’s what we’re there for and that’s what I think people turn to our forum to watch — people discussing village issues. I don’t understand what the concern is by a couple of members of the community who want to discuss things that are other than village-related,” Mayor Martins said later.
Urianek also hinted that he would no longer be attending village meetings as he wished the board a happy Thanksgiving, merry Christmas and happy New Year as the board was voting to adjourn.
The meeting was adjourned at approximately 7:50 p.m.