Ridgewood Council Debates Balance Between Decorum and Open Dialogue at Public Meetings

In a recent meeting, the Ridgewood Council discussed updating regulations to maintain decorum during public sessions while preserving citizens’ legal rights to voice their opinions. The focal point of the debate centered on how extensively a legally permissible ordinance could stretch and the council’s objective in amending it.

The discussion was initiated by council members expressing concerns over recent alterations to their decorum ordinance and questioning the boundaries of the regulations they could implement. The revised ordinance currently prohibits disruptive, accusatory, or threatening remarks and personal, abusive or threatening comments. However, the council is seeking more extensive adjustments.

Clarifications on the council’s boundary lines were brought forth, primarily questioning the council’s authority over audience behavior, individuals addressing the council, and the potential for setting a precedent making it easier to exclude individuals from meetings.

Additionally, the council sought advice from the legal advisor about the chairperson’s power to maintain order during meetings. The advisor affirmed the council’s authority but drew attention to recent challenges posed by disruptions from attendees, not just speakers. This highlighted the need for broadened regulations encompassing disruptions from anyone attending in-person or virtually.

The council also discussed extending these regulations to other public meetings such as planning board, zoning board, and other village gatherings under the open public meetings law.

Alongside these discussions, the Ridgewood Council meeting saw progression on topics including proposed changes to tree removal permits and plans to address concerns at the Route 17 Park and Ride. The council also discussed receiving permission for the Historical Preservation Commission and the Shade Tree Commission to advise on the Shedler property, and honored worker Johanna Lutrell with the Member of the Year award by the Association of New Jersey Recyclers.

In other agenda items, a potential partnership with Verizon involving a generator at Ridge Red Water was discussed, as the council sought permission to move forward with soliciting proposals for the bid process. A settlement agreement with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection concerning a fuel storage tank violation was reviewed while steps were taken to discuss the bus station’s deteriorating condition.

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