Citizens have right to speak but rules must be followed

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Citizens have the right to be heard and voice their opinions on matters concerning the workings of government.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees that right.

It says: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

If done in a public meeting, there are guidelines that have to be followed that have been established by that entity, generally in the amount of time the citizen may speak.

This was the situation at the Hollow Rock Board meeting on March 16.

Citizen Tommy Boaz was on the agenda to speak about matters  concerning the town as to employee raises, their jobs, upgrades for the town and future  endeavors in general.

Mayor Rob Woods informed him of the five minute limit.

Boaz had attended the town’s Feb. 25 meeting and had spoken on similar topics. At that meeting after being told of the five minute limit, he had spoken approximately ten minutes at least.

When advised that his time was up at the March 16 meeting, he continued to speak. At that point, the mayor ask police chief Danny Emerson to escort him from the meeting.

When there is a time limit, speakers have to get to the point of their message and not get off the subject. Five minutes go by in a hurry. Most people don’t realize how fast.

The first amendment does grant the right for citizens to be heard. But citizens should respect that privilege by abiding by the rules.

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