Bergenfield Town Hall Meeting 7.24.12 Public Comments Part One





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Published on Jul 26, 2012

This is a video of the first public comments portion of the Bergenfield Mayor and Council meeting of July 24th, 2012. The local PAL had been given an opportunity to make a presentation at length in which they withdrew their suport for the construction of a community center which had become a matter of considerable controversy.

The PAL representatives were permitted to speak as long as they wished and were permitted to make all manner of disparaging characterizations toward both the mayor and council and toward the opponents of the project being bult at this particular site.

The Mayor was able to respond and to try to rebut some of the criticism thrown at him and at the council.....then that session was closed for a recess and the part you are now watching here was opened for "public" comment.

At this point as you can see, a number of people did make all manner of comments on all manner of issues INCLUDING THE PROPOSED COMMUNITY CENTER!! There were folks talking about traffic concerns and tax concerns and one gentleman who took quite a while reading off a litany of his own broad ranging concerns and proposals to which the town manager responded by politely inviting him to a more private conversation.

Then you will see Carol Hoernlein coming to the microphone to exercise her own right to speak and the Mayor comes down on her like a ton of bricks and shuts down her comments on the flimsy and intellectually/morally/legally bankrupt pretext that she could not be allowed to speak because her comments concerned the proposed community center and since that was no on the agenda....she had no right to speak.

Mayor Driscoll can be seen and heard declaring her out of order and banging his gavel....and the police chief can be seen approaching Carol from the rear prepared to use force to shut her up. The police chief is not at fault as, from his perspective, he;s doing his duty and enforcing the order as directed by the mayor.

Then I get up to try protest the way Carol was shut up and unfairly stifled by the mayor.

I state that the meeting that night was SPECIFICALLY called to be a meeting dedicated to a discussion of the project that the council and mayor had, in effect, been pushing and approving of to the extent that they authorized "site preparation" that included laying a concrete foundation on green acres land that was serving as drainage....and had ordered the town DPW to destroy 30 trees, one of which was about a hundfred years old.....which also were serving to absorb water and help with the drainage of this green acres land.

So, when I pointed out that this meeting was being held under the law of open public access the town attorney reiterated the mayor's prior line of "reasoning" with Carol and tried to make the case that she could not raise any discussion of the community center because that was "off the agenda" I tried to make the rebuttal that while that may have been technically true....in practical terms other people had spoken about other items AND about the community center project....I was not allowed to complet my presentation or to make my full point as Mayor Driscoll yet again intervened with his gavel......having no wish to engage in non violent civil disobedience and be subject to what would be an arrest I chose to back off and to tell the Mayor that "I respect your authority".

The fact is that Mayor Driscoll has the legal right to bang his gavel and to declare people out of order and to have the police enforce his will at the point of lethal force if necessary.

Fortunately we live in America where a local mayor does not get to have the last word and to dictate what the law is.

I assert that the Mayor was out of order and that the legalistic justification offered by the town attorney was, itself, not grounded in a fair interpretation of law.

I assert that the Mayor was abusing his power and was able to successfully stifle Carol Hoernlein's right to speak. By allowing others to speak on any topic they wished....the meeting had de facto AND de jure become an open public meeting in which Carol should have been allowed to address any issue she pleased.

Sadly the acoustics of the room are such that the exact words are lost in the booming echo. I hope that the official recording that should have been made directly from the straight feed from the microphones will be made available to the public as is required by law.

I'm not an attorney and not an expert in te law of open public meetings......but what was done to Carol sure stinks to high heaven....and if it turns out that what Mayor Driscoll did there was actually legal....then he law itself must be changed because what happened was a clear act of bullying and an attempt to stifle Carol from speaking and to harass and to provoke her.

Shame on you Mayor Driscoll. You are clearly a bully and a petty tyrant, even Chris Christie has more class than you do.


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