By Ann McCreary
People who want to speak during the public comment period at Twisp Town Council meetings will have to adhere to a new policy that prohibits personal verbal attacks or insults.
Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said she established the policy after a citizen “was verbally abusive and insulting to the council” during public comments at a meeting earlier in May.
“Following that meeting I came to realize that though public officials are there to take comments and listen, they are not there to be abused,” Ing-Moody said. “The council is there to do a very difficult job on a regular basis, which is not easy to do, and they do it because they care about the community. They do not deserve to be treated in that way and will not be treated that way.”
The comments that prompted the new policy were made by Twisp resident Mark Edson, who spoke during the period set aside at the beginning of the meeting for public comment. Citizens sign a sheet indicating they wish to make comment and are allotted up to three minutes to speak.
Edson’s comments focused on his displeasure with a new civic building that is being planned to replace the current town hall building. Edson said “people are disgusted with spending that amount of money” and called the proposed building a “behemoth.” (The building cost is estimated to be about $3 million including design.)
Addressing council members, Edson said they were unduly influenced by the mayor, and used derogatory terms, including “mushrooms,” to describe them. He said the new civic building should be called the “the Ing-Moody building.”
The new policy for public comment was printed at the top of the sign-up sheet at the last council meeting. It reads: “Verbal abuse and personal affronts will not be tolerated during public comment and may be cause for removal from council chambers.”
“It is within my authority to determine how I accept comment,” Ing-Moody said. “The objective is not to stifle what citizens have to say, it’s the reverse. We welcome what the public has to say, and it’s crucial. The whole point is to respect public comment and freedom of speech.”