In a workshop held this evening, Pensacola city council members backed off of a proposed rule change which would have cut the number of “Boyd Forum” opportunities for public input.
The public input forum, which currently takes place both at the beginning and end of city council meetings, was named in honor of longtime community activist LeRoy Boyd in 2011. Boyd, who led the Movement for Change organization and successfully campaigned for a street to be named in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a longtime fixture at the council’s open forums. While citizens wishing to speak about a specific agenda item may do so during the meeting, Boyd Forum is the only outlet for those wishing to speak about an issue not on the council’s agenda.
City Council Executive Donald Kraher told the council that the proposed rules had not been brought forward by any specific council members, but rather had come about as the result of “general conversations,” later clarifying that the rules had largely been drafted by former city manager Al Coby, who is currently serving as a consultant to the city council.
Coby said it made sense to eliminate the first Boyd Forum because many times, more speakers are present to speak on agenda items than at the open forum. Most of the time, Coby said, there are no more than three to five speakers for Boyd Forum.
Most council members disagreed. “I can understand the logic in striking it,” said Councilman P.C. Wu, “but I believe that anything that limits the people’s right to come and redress their government is not a good thing.”
Councilwoman Jewel Cannada-Wynn was the only council member present who seemed open to the idea of eliminating one of the two current Boyd Fora. “I think that we should have one forum,” she said, suggesting that the council structure its open forum like the Escambia County Commission, which holds a separate public forum an hour before the start of its regular meetings.
Members of the public who spoke at the meeting were uniformly opposed to a change.
Ultimately, the council took a straw poll in which members chose not to move forward with any changes to Boyd Forum, aside from formally referring to it as the “LeRoy Boyd Forum.”
Council members Larry B. Johnson and Brian Spencer were not present at the workshop.