The Anaheim City Council Tuesday night will consider placing time limits on audience comments during public hearings.
The public is allowed to speak during public hearings, which are held for a variety of reasons, most commonly when development projects are being proposed. Currently in Anaheim, people can speak for as long as they want.
The proposed rules would allow a project applicant to speak for 20 minutes, according to a staff report. Those residing within the notice area of the public hearing would then have 10 minutes to speak, and all other members of the public would have three minutes, the report says. Finally, the applicant would have another 10 minutes for rebuttal following public testimony.
All members of the public would have five minutes to speak on legislative matters, according to the report.
Mayor Tom Tait said he called for the time limits because having no limits is unfair to the general public, as one speaker could prevent others from speaking by taking too long.
“I want to make sure everyone has a chance to speak,” Tait said.
Resident William Denis Fitzgerald says the proposed rules target him. Fitzgerald is known to speak for long periods of time at public hearings and make controversial statements, accusing the City Council of corruption and kowtowing to the Disneyland Resort.
He also says that the merger of council meetings with other board meetings, such as the Redevelopment Agency and the Housing Authority, was also an attempt to stifle his speech.
“This is nothing new,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald is also at the center of a First Amendment lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Orange County Board of Supervisors. During public comments at a board meeting, he called Vietnamese who fled their country after the fall of Saigon in 1975 “cowards.” He was interrupted and then berated by Supervisor Janet Nguyen, who immigrated to the U.S. as a child.
— ADAM ELMAHREK