N.M. town lifts restrictive public-comment policy

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Truth or Consequences City Commission has set aside a 2-month-old policy that required the board to pre-approve comments the public sought to make at its meetings.

The policy was criticized by citizens and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, which called it an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech.

The board adopted the policy last October requiring citizens to submit a summary of their planned comments a day before its meeting. The board then decided who would be able to speak based on the summary.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that Brendan Egan, a staff attorney with the ACLU, said that at least two residents claimed they weren’t allowed to address the commission because they had been critical of the board in the past.

The policy was recommended by city attorney Jaime Rubin, who also recommended that it be ended, at least temporarily. He said last week that he didn't consider the policy flawed but thought a better “legal policy” would allow anyone the chance to address the board.

Mayor Lori Montgomery told the newspaper that the commission allowed members of the public to speak at the Dec. 8 meeting without first vetting the comments.

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