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New speaking rules established at Mastic Beach village meetings

Mayor Bill Biondi is shown in Mastic Beach

Mayor Bill Biondi is shown in Mastic Beach on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

Mastic Beach Mayor Bill Biondi led a village board meeting Tuesday that largely reined in, for at least one night, the kind of unruly behavior and long-winded speakers that had dominated previous meetings.

Biondi last week pledged to reduce disruptions at the monthly meetings after the past few stretched to four hours with residents shouting from their seats, interrupting each other and berating trustees.

On Tuesday, the village used a three-minute timer whenever someone spoke. Past meetings allowed speakers to discuss issues at length, with no time limit.

When one resident asked about a village matter while still in his seat, Biondi asked him to wait until the public comment portion of the meeting began.

The two-hour, 15-minute gathering, relatively short compared with the past five months of village meetings, did have moments of unsanctioned outbursts.

Audience members shouted "she has the right to speak" and "amateurs" during a disagreement between Biondi and Trustee Maura Spery over the use of security cameras, and the amount of money the village paid last year to writers of grant proposals.

Village resident Susan Steinmann, 70, was pleased with the changes and called Tuesday's meeting "lovely."

"I'm glad we have timers," she told the board. "For meetings to be democratic, everyone needs a chance to speak."

Steinmann said recent meetings have been monopolized by groups of people who speak for large amounts of time. She said that made other residents reluctant to speak.

She suggested that the board consider limiting speakers to one trip to the podium.

Biondi had blamed himself for the chaotic meetings, saying that if people cared enough and took the time to comment, they deserved to be heard.

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