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Democracy fades to black

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With Orlando City Council meetings set to debut on government-access cable TV June 3, City Hall watchdogs were starting to wonder what might happen to those hapless folks in the audience to whom the council reluctantly turns over the microphone the end of every council meeting.

Indeed, it was only a matter of time before administrators tried to scoot those speakers out of view of the cameras.

At the April 22 council meeting, City Clerk Candice Crawford provided an overview of how the city might do so. Speakers at "General Appearance," as it's called, currently can address the council on any topic of their choosing. In the future, however, those speakers would be asked to provide comments at the council's perfunctory meeting held an hour before the regular council session convenes.

That earlier meeting will not be televised.

Some commissioners objected, saying the city was creating two public meetings, in effect causing confusion and an us-versus-them mentality. Mayor Glenda Hood, a former public relations executive, has long been criticized for controlling content to the public.

District 5 Commissioner Daisy Lynum, who has had a number of constituents denounce her during General Appearances, was the most vocal in support of the move. "`The public` needs access to us to give us information and we need to act on it," she said. "But we don't need to create a circus here."

Crawford, the city clerk, will return with a revised plan in the coming months, but probably not before the broadcasts start. Until then, constituents are advised to get their remarks in while the cameras are rolling.


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