Milton council declines to adopt rules of decorum and civility, despite recent outbursts
Despite increasingly heated Milton City Council meetings that have seen some council members storm out of meetings, get in shouting matches with residents and other board members, and cause disruptions that can sidetrack meetings for hours, the council declined Thursday night to adopt a code of decorum and civility proposed by the mayor that sought to make meetings more peaceful and less contentious.
The "Guiding Principals for Meetings within the City of Milton" document was created by Milton Mayor Heather Lindsay and put forth for council consideration at Thursday night's council meeting. The mayor hoped to get the council members to agree to adopt the document as a way to express "commonly shared values" by the city's public servants.
The principles included things like respect for open government, politeness and civility during the decision-making process, and accountability to conduct city business with decency.
"Elected officials can show how to solve problems productively by disagreeing without being disagreeable, we can act in wisdom by striving to express ourselves based on principles instead of personalities, and maintaining decorum means that we treat each other as we would like to be treated," Lindsay said, reading from the prepared document.
"By remaining calm we can make decisions with wisdom rather than emotion, and in these ways we can model civility.”
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City Councilwoman Shannon Rice questioned the document and accused it of being too "subjective." Rice herself was the subject of the mayor's condemnation at the start of Thursday night's meeting after she repeatedly interrupted other council members during a discussion about a development issue, and the mayor threatened to have her removed from the room via police escort before calling a brief recess to allow Rice to "gather her thoughts."
"You can bet on the fact that I’m going to stand up for our constituents. So when I think you’ve forgotten who you work for, it’s not going to be pretty, I’m going call you out on it," Rice told the mayor.
"They don’t come to every meeting, we’re here to speak for them and I’m going to do it. And I know you might get six or seven county residents supporting you if you kick me out of this meeting, but I suggest if you plan on running for re-election, then you read your scouting report because the citizens like me."
Lindsay contended that the rules wouldn’t prevent Rice from speaking out about her point of view.
“It’s simply about doing so in a way that is dignified and in order,” Lindsay said.
Councilman Jeff Snow turned the onus for conducting City Council meetings with civility back on Lindsay, saying she needed to do a better job of controlling calamity in the council chambers. He also accused her of condemning some council members for things she didn’t condemn other council members for.
“You’re in charge of running these meetings, and we can talk all the rules or guidelines, but over and over and over again only certain individuals are stopped if they get out of line or show poor decorum,” Snow said.
“Council members as in the last meeting say something, and the same members do the same things over and over, and it’s up to you as the leader of this meeting to be unbiased and account for everyone properly. Do we all step over that fence a little bit? Sure, we all get, as you say, ‘passionate,’ but sometimes it’s over and over that you mention in here speaking while others are speaking. The same people get to speak while other people are speaking over and over and over again.”
Rice made a motion to not do anything with the proposed meeting code of conduct and leave it dead in the water, which Snow seconded. The document was not adopted and will not proceed at any future City Council meetings.
Annie Blanks can be reached at email@example.com or 850-435-8632.