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Council formally introduces speaking time limits

OCEANSIDE — City Council introduced a 10-minute time limit, per item, on council members’ comments on Wednesday.

Councilman Chuck Lowery said the limit still allows an ample 50-minutes of discussion on each item.

In addition to a time limit, the ordinance sets standards for civil discourse, and asks that council members be allowed to speak without interruption unless a point of order or personal privilege is raised by a fellow council member, or the council member speaking wishes to yield to a question.

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez cast the one no vote to drafting the ordinance in January, and to introducing it Wednesday.

At both meetings Sanchez said the time restriction would compromise transparency.

On Wednesday Councilman Chuck Lowery countered that claim.

“That residents will be less informed with comments limited to 10-minutes just is not true,” Lowery said.

Lowery said few items, even if they entail lengthy discussion, take 50-minutes of council comments.

He said the time limit is helpful, and pointed out that council members have spoken for 25-minutes or more as a filibuster.

He did not mention Sanchez by name, but she has spoken up until a meeting’s 9 p.m. end time, forcing a decision to either extend the meeting or address the item next council session.

Lowery said long-windedness is self-aggrandizement, often includes berating fellow council members, and is not beneficial.

He added it is important to have city government transparency, and said he communicates openly with residents through a newsletter, Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor.

“I’m as open and transparent as possible,” Lowery said.

He also suggested council members’ travel expenses and yearly discretionary spending be listed as line items within the online posted city budget to increase transparency.

Councilman Jerry Kern also said 10-minutes for comments is sufficient. He repeated that other council bodies have a three-minute, per item, time limit for council members, which he shared at the January meeting.

Sanchez stood by her no vote, and said the time limit unnecessarily controls the meeting.

“Some issues are very, very complicated,” Sanchez said. “The public asks questions, and they have a right to know why a council member is voting a certain way.”

She added that not everything residents ask about could be covered with emails and tweets.

January discussions also asked that council member reports stop. They were not included in Wednesday’s meeting.

No decision was made to set aside time for off agenda reports by council members.