The Memphis City Council may soon vote to silence your voice by ending public comments at the end of every meeting.
The proposal gained momentum after a heated exchange between Councilman Edmund Ford and an outspoken wife of a police officer at the last meeting.
It only takes seven votes at the next meeting to bar general public comment. That is the two minutes each person now gets to talk at the end of every meeting.
The possibility that public comment may be eliminated is not sitting well with some Memphians.
“I don’t know why an elected council member would challenge a citizen,” said Fran Triplett.
“Don’t ever think you can intimidate me or any of your cohorts—ever,” replied Ford.
This heated exchange between councilman Ford and the wife of a Memphis police officer, Fran Triplett, is what racheted up council’s recent interest in doing away with public comment at the end of each meeting.
Councilman Berlin Boyd spoke on behalf of Ford because he was ill today. Boyd says some email and public comments can get downright harassing.
“It’s more so a belittling pulpit, a bulling pulpit, and just ways of people to air out their business,” said Boyd.
There is no constitutional right to speak on the council floor, but that does not mean people will be happy to lose the opportunity. Some have taken to Facebook to express their opposition.
“It’s a change and I think people will get adjusted to it and people will realize hey this is a new change that the council has implemented. And I think as time goes on they will accept it and say hey this is how it goes,” said Boyd.
But Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland says he did not mind the public forum when he was a councilman.
“There are a lot of people who didn’t agree with the positions I took by email conversations, comments at the end of meetings, but it just comes with the territory,” said Strickland.
And others like Councilman Worth Morgan say they are in favor of it.
“I think that is something special and good that Memphis City Council has. There have been some issues that have come up, issues that we didn’t know about and I can turn around and direct them to Director Knecht and say, ‘let’s get this sorted out and worked out it is another way of communication,” Morgan.
The next city council meeting is scheduled for March 16th.