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Ozark council rejects measure that could have stymied public comments

Recently, some citizens have publicly criticized the mayor for his actions regarding the Ozark-Dale County Public Library Board and his social media interactions with citizens.

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The Ozark City Council, on Tuesday, rejected a resolution to change council rules that would make it harder for citizens to speak at council meetings on non-agenda items.

The resolution was brought up Tuesday night, following the council’s decision last month to censure Blankenship for his recent behavior toward constituents.

The proposed policy change would have required the clerk to decide whether a citizen should speak to the mayor or a department head first, rather than making public comments at a council meeting.

Councilwoman Leah Harlow supported the change, citing the established action request form. “If they have problems, they should take that route first,” she said.

Recently, some citizens have publicly criticized the mayor for his actions regarding the Ozark-Dale County Public Library Board and his social media interactions with citizens.

Councilman Winston Jackson questioned the necessity of changing the rules, which have been in place since 2010. He noted that criticism is part of a public servant’s job and shouldn’t be taken personally.

Blankenship cited an incident where a citizen’s public comments against a law enforcement officer were proven false by body cam footage. He expressed concern about public employees being unfairly criticized.

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The resolution would have only affected comments on non-agenda items. However, it failed after no one seconded the motion.

Multiple citizens expressed concerns about the rule change potentially hindering public participation, though some suggested more time was needed to consider its impact.

“We The People of Dale County,” a citizen group that led the effort to censure Blankenship, celebrated the resolution’s defeat on Facebook. They described it as a victory for truth and transparency, stating, “This would have been a step towards silencing the citizenry … This is a win for the citizenry and for We the People.”

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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