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Burbank Council Votes to Limit Gadflies' Time in Limelight

November 25, 1987|GREG BRAXTON | Times Staff Writer

In an effort to keep television viewers tuned in to live broadcasts of its meetings, the Burbank City Council voted Tuesday to restrict the amount of time allowed for public comment.

The decision came, in part, because a number of regular speakers, called "gadflies" by city officials, were taking a large amount of time at meetings. The speakers often did not address themselves to specific council agenda items, officials said.

Council members agreed that they did not want to discourage public comment. But the majority complained that the group of regulars--including a janitor who sometimes yells during the meetings, a presidential candidate from the American Nazi Party and a resident who claims he is menaced by helicopters and people with sophisticated radar--were taking up too much time.

The present five-minute limit on public comment was reduced to three minutes for matters on the agenda. A second oral-communications period will be held following the regular meeting so speakers can discuss any subject for five minutes, the council decided.

The new rules will go into effect in two weeks.

"We just have to get to the business of this city faster," said Councilwoman Mary E. Kelsey. Kelsey had complained that the council sometimes had not gotten to the main agenda until about 11:30 p.m., 4 1/2 hours after the start of meetings.

Council members Mary Lou Howard and Al F. Dossing, who voted against the restrictions, said they are unfair. "It's not the speakers who are taking the time, but it is our response to their questions," Howard said. She said viewers were not being cheated on finding out about agenda votes.

Councilman Robert R. Bowne agreed with Howard, but said, "We have to place the business of the city as the main priority. Now it's getting lost in the shuffle." Bowne said the council has a "duty to television viewers."

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