When big issues come before the County Commission – the largest decision-making government board in Osceola – residents tend to speak up.
If the issue is big enough or if it’s difficult to explain, residents may donate speaking time to someone else, usually a leader or group representative.
It lets those who might be uncomfortable speaking in public to still have their voices heard.
On Monday, the board announced a new rule – only one minute of speaking time can be donated by a resident to someone else, instead of the three minutes they would be granted if they spoke themselves.
It also limits any resident’s total talk time at county meetings to 15 minutes.
In other words, a group wishing to make a 15-minute presentation for public record now needs 12 people to show up and pledge time after the initial three minute presentation.
Resident Karina Veaudry acknowledged that three minutes is usually enough time to make a point.
“But occasionally, a couple times a year, there’s really complicated issues concerning developments and their impacts,” said Veaudry.
She added that developers often meet with commissioners and staff for months to discuss project details, though residents sometimes only learn about it when action appears on the agenda.
Veaudry called the board’s decision to limit donated time “really detrimental” and pointed out that many people are just nervous about speaking in public.
But, Veaudry claimed, that doesn’t mean their thoughts are less important.
“When you do that, you’re taking rights away from that other citizen,” said Veaudry, who often speaks on behalf of the local chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society.
An item about donated time appeared on the December agenda.
“But when I asked (Commissioner) Cheryl Grieb about this, she said it was just a discussion item and no action would be taken,” said resident Valerie Anderson on Monday.
Anderson pointed out that this prevented residents from speaking on this new rule before it went into effect.
She also asked when the decision was made to limit time.
Chairman Grieb said the decision is up to the chair’s discretion, and she made the call after staff reviewed time donation policies in other counties.
Grieb said she would take comments by Anderson and Veaudry under consideration.