NORTH ADAMS -- City councilors have determined to vote on Jan. 22 on whether the council’s Rules of Order will be amended to ban messaging from meetings.
The item was a part of Tuesday’s City Council meeting agenda, but councilor Keith Bona said the measure, called Rule 10-A, is still under review by City Solicitor John DeRosa.
Residents in attendance bristled, as they have in prior meetings, at the proposed changes of Rule 10-A, which was drawn up by Council President Michael Bloom and states "No member or official or visitor shall be allowed to publicly display any form of messaging, whether lettered or graphic, on a sign, electronic device or printed article of personal clothing at a City Council meeting."
"I think anytime you try to abridge speech, it’s a mistake, a big mistake," resident Michael Chalifoux said. "The more free speech, the more ideas you have. If I were a city councilor, I would be welcoming people down here."
Resident Robert Cardimino said disruptions of meetings would end if all citizens felt their concerns were being addressed and they had more of a say in the city’s business.
Cardimino used the example of the mayor, technically a guest at council meetings, being allowed to enter into the council’s debate while others are not.
"If you allow one guest to speak, you must allow all guests to speak," Cardimino said. "If [the mayor’s] allowed to speak at councilors concerns, then the rest of us should be allowed to speak at councilors concerns. ... Let’s have some open and honest debate between the councilors and the guests. Then there will be no need for Rule 10-A."
In an interview after the meeting, however, Bona discussed the purpose of 10-A, and suggested that Cardimino’s assertion that such rules would put the city on a track toward places "like Syria" was farfetched.
Bona said 10-A is being considered as a protection against slander, among other things, because councilors are limited in how they can respond to guests, even when being attacked.
"It’s more about [an individual who’s] being disruptive at a meeting," Bona said.
He said complaints against 10-A tended to extrapolate to "extremes" that "really aren’t the truth."
To reach Phil Demers, email