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Dear Peekskill Resident,
Over the last several weeks, dozens upon dozens of Peekskill residents have voiced concerns to members of the Peekskill Common Council regarding the behavior of a small group who attend Common Council meetings. Many residents who have spoken at the podium at Council meetings have contacted us to complain they have felt intimidated, and in some cases, threatened by the same group. Other residents have said that they do not feel safe coming to council meetings because of the arguments that occur between this group and other members of the audience. We deeply regret that our residents do not feel that they can attend Council meetings to bring their issues forth to the Council. We believe strongly that everyone, resident and non-resident, has a right for their voice to be heard without intimidation and that no one should be heckled or have insults hurled at them.
The common council believes strongly that one group's political agenda should not inhibit the ability of others to participate in their government.
Heckling, cat calls, refusal to cede the microphone, and racially charged outbursts have all too often obstructed the ability of the city to conduct the taxpayer's business. In response, the common council instituted clear rules of participation and decorum to enable public participation that is open to everyone. We believe these rules will make residents more comfortable participating in their government and will protect them from the increasingly charged rhetoric. We have copied the resolution establishing the new rules below for your review.
While those who have attempted to disrupt common council meetings have suggested these rules ban "clapping," that is simply not the case. In fact, we think clapping is a great expression of support an encouragement. But clapping should not be used as an attempt to silence or intimidate residents of Peekskill from speaking before their local government. The rules of decorum we have established prohibit clapping as an attempt to silence and intimidate speakers at the podium. Nothing more.
It's our hope that the new rules we implemented for common council meetings will make residents of Peekskill feel more comfortable attending the business of their government. We also hope that all individuals express their views in a manner that is respectful to the citizens of Peekskill and does not impinge on the right of others to be heard. The residents of Peekskill have accommodated the rights of others to express their opinions. It's our goal to make sure the residents of Peekskill are able to express their opinions in the same manner, without intimidation. We encourage you, your family, and your neighbors to attend a common council meeting and be heard and we commit to you that we will continue to work toward making the environment as comfortable as we possibly can. This is your City and you have a right to be heard.
Mayor Mary F. Foster and the Common Council