NISKAYUNA — The Niskayuna Town Board will be implementing a three-minute time limit for public comments at its meetings beginning with the board’s session on Tuesday night.
The board’s new policy will shorten the current five-minute limit for privilege of the floor comments that was instituted in January 2022.
Town Supervisor Jaime Puccioni on Monday said the change will match the Niskayuna Board of Education public comment time limit.
“It’s more aligned with other municipalities and other local school boards,” she said.
Puccioni said the town will require residents to register on a signup sheet prior to speaking to provide record-keeping for the town clerk without residents having to state their address prior to speaking.
“Some residents don’t like to state their address aloud because it’s on a YouTube video forever,” she said. “It’s to allow for more privacy for the resident.”
The Schenectady City Council has a three-minute time limit on its privilege of the floor public comments and also requires that residents to sign up before speaking.
Emailed comments from residents will no longer be read aloud by the Niskayuna board at meetings, ending a pandemic-related practice.
The planned changes were first raised publicly by Puccioni during the Town Board’s Finance Committee meeting on Jan. 10.
“I’m asking us to revisit our current protocol,” the supervisor said during the meeting. “I’ve had conversations with other municipal leaders and other school board leaders. The general consensus is that privilege of the floor is organized in such a way where each individual has three minutes to speak and they sign up with either the clerk and they write their name and address and the clerk calls on that individual.”
During the meeting, Town Board Member Jason Moskowitz inquired about the process for how residents would sign up for the public comment period, with Puccioni replying that the town could potentially allow members of the public to register up until the time the meeting is called to order. During the discussion regarding the policy, Town Board Member Bill McPartlon raised the possibility of allowing additional speakers who missed the signup period to add their name to the list during a meeting.
“When everybody that’s signed up is done, we could say, ‘Is there anyone else who didn’t get signed up or arrived late and wants to speak?’” McPartlon said during the Jan. 10 meeting.
The policy set to take effect on March 28 requires residents to notify Town Clerk Michele Martinelli by phone, email or in-person by 6 p.m. on the day of a 7 p.m. meeting of their intention to give a public comment during a given meeting.
Puccioni on Monday said she recommended the 6 p.m. deadline.
The policy also allows the board to limit privilege of the floor sessions to 30 minutes per meeting.
Moskowitz says he disagrees with the town’s move to limit speakers to three minutes apiece.
“Soon after taking office, the supervisor [Puccioni] placed a timer on the podium and instituted a five-minute limit for speakers,” he said on Friday. “At that time I was not fully supportive of a time limit, however I understood that the supervisor is tasked with maintaining order at the meetings, and in an effort to maintain order and for the sake of allowing for time to conduct town business, she felt that a five-minute limit was necessary. Effective at the next Town Board meeting on March 28, the supervisor has decided to lower that time limit to three minutes, and it is now required that speakers pre-register. Again, while I fully understand that the supervisor is tasked with maintaining order during meetings, I do not believe that muzzling our residents is the way to do so. I have said it before and I will continue to say it — we wouldn’t be sitting in those seats if it weren’t for the taxpayers who elected us.”
Moskowitz said he was concerned about the reduced time residents will get to speak in front of the Town Board during meetings.
“I receive phone calls, text messages, and emails from residents every single day — and I have made it clear to everyone I speak with that I am available at any time,” he said. “There is no time limit when one of my constituents has a concern.”
In a letter to the Town Board, Niskayuna resident Linda Rizzo opposed the policy change.
“In my opinion, any supervisor or board member who supports this shouldn’t be elected as an animal control officer — animals have rights too,” she wrote. “In addition, on normal occasions you have very few people who speak. Who are you targeting? At most meetings if you have five people speaking that is a lot.”
Moskowitz said he was not given the opportunity to review the final policy before it was implemented by the supervisor.
“He didn’t say anything during the meeting and it was done in a public venue with transparency,” Puccioni said on Monday. “Everything that was discussed in the meeting is in the document [policy]. If he didn’t want to speak up during the meeting, that’s his responsibility.”
Contact Ted Remsnyder at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @TedRemsnyder.
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C’mon Jaime, just a little intellectual integrity goes a long way…you send out town wide emails shutting down Town Hall every time it flurries or for your partisan blood drives or to discuss spongy moths…but limiting public comment at the Board meetings gets buried at a Finance Committee meeting. Yeah…not buying it, no more than your FIOS fiasco or your cute clandestine raise scam.
First of all Puccioni’s reasons in the Gazette for doing this are bogus.
-you just have to give your name at a board meeting and people can google you and get your address. Nonsense she is protecting privacy of residents.
-the Schenectady County Legislature has you sign in when you arrive. They do not call you to the podium and if your 3 minutes expire they let you finish your thoughts etc. They are not rude to the residents.
-She and Brennan want to align the town with the school district. Really! They are legally two separate entities. Do Puccioni and Brennan also want the town to inherit the district’s problems?
– this was decided at a finance meeting. NEVER discussed at a board meeting where the policy will be implemented. Puccioni calls that transparency. She doesn’t agree with Jason Moskowitz that he should have seen this policy in writing to review it. He is board member who got more votes than she did. He has a responsibility to the residents. Of course, when he first got on the board, she refused to give him his own board committee.
– Puccioni and Brennan also eliminated letters being read during privilege of the floor due to Covid ending. In the past before Puccioni arrived on the scene, occasionally a letter would be read. This now means that handicap residents and seniors that can not attend meetings have no say in their town government. Doesn’t Puccioni and Brennan a school district employee care about these people? This is discrimination to cut these people out of giving or expressing their opinion as taxpayers/residents.
She is giving Democrats in other municipalities in the county a bad name by making people think they are in agreement with her. I know some of them and they do not agree with her style of leadership.