DBCC trustees put time limit on public comments

By January 15, 2008

When it’s your turn to talk to the Daytona Beach Community College Board of Trustees, you’ll have less time to make your point.

When the board meets Thursday, public comments will be restricted to three minutes. During a workshop last month, the board informally agreed to cut back to three minutes from five.

And though it’s not spelled out in the procedure manual, Executive Vice President Rand Spiwak said people who propose to comment on issues not on the board’s agenda will be encouraged to contact the college president or board chairman in writing.

The problem with the old policy, Spiwak said, was that someone could come before the board and talk about anything under the sun for up to five minutes.

“They could read the Constitution of the United States,” he said. “Or discuss baseball scores, which has nothing to do with Daytona Beach College.”

The procedure change comes on the heels of a letter from a national civil-rights organization questioning the college’s methods in obstructing a student’s effort to speak to the board.

The Foundation of Individual Rights in Education wrote President Kent Sharples in November, saying it was “gravely concerned” about the college’s “threats to free expression.”

Spiwak said other governmental bodies, including the Daytona Beach City Commission, limit comments to three minutes. The Volusia County School Board does not specify an individual speaker’s time limit in its policy, but allows 30 minutes for all speakers.

At least one trustee questioned whether public comments were a problem for the board.

During the December meeting, trustee Peter Mallory joked that the board’s discussion of the public-comment period had taken longer than all the public comments he’d heard in eight years on the board.

“We’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” he said.

A 4:30 p.m. workshop precedes the 5 p.m. meeting Thursday in Room 402L of Building 100 on the Daytona Beach campus, 1200 W. International Speedway Blvd. Trustees will consider:

· Approval of several new courses, including The Vietnam War, Popular Music in America and Dynamics of Student Leadership.

· Amending plans to eventually construct a campus clock tower in a plaza at the Daytona Beach campus’s center. Spiwak said the tower would be privately funded.

· Spending an additional $75,000 to demolish the aging “600 Building” complex in the vicinity of where the new Florida State University medical school branch campus building, McKinnon Hall, will be built.