CHICKASAW, Ala. (WKRG) — Citizens of Chickasaw took to the streets holding a protest expressing their concerns about not being able to speak to city officials during their city council meetings. According to different protestors, this has been an issue for them since 2020 due to COVID restrictions.
“We don’t have a voice here,” said fellow protestor Bill Vallon. “We elected them to elect us and represent us and what we need and what we’re looking for.”
A tense meeting followed after the citizens held their protest, taking their signs into the city council meeting. While the rule was still enforced, some disregarded it to make their voices heard.
“We have the right to talk to you Mayor Broadhead!” exclaimed one citizen. “No, no, no. I’m talking. I’m a resident. I pay my taxes, and every single resident in this room is tired of not being able to talk!”
The mayor of Chickasaw, Barry Broadhead, says the rule was put in place unanimously by the city council members back in 2020. He says citizens are still able to speak with their city officials through an online form.
“We would have submissions of questions in advance at the Council meetings,” said Broadhead. “And we would be available before the meetings and after the meetings to answer any specific questions.”
Citizens say they have submitted their requests to speak during council meetings, but haven’t received any response.
“We can send an email to the City Hall,” said protestor Joe Spinelli. “And then they go ahead and send it to the mayor. And then the mayor responds back to that one person maybe, maybe some people he doesn’t even speak to he doesn’t he doesn’t respond back.”
“At least give us the common courtesy as a human being to, if you want to hear what we have to say, just listen to it,” said Vallon. “And then when you leave, pretend you listen to it. It gives us the satisfaction knowing we had the ability to speak.”
One citizen took a creative approach to get the city council’s attention. Datokah Buley cut out heart shaped notes in light of Valentine’s Day hoping her gentle approach will get her message across.
“I had the idea to post on Facebook and kind of get the citizens concerns and I decided to just cut them out and put them on hearts for the theme of Valentine’s Day,” said Buley. “And hopefully it’ll open the door to open conversation between the mayor, the council and the citizens.”
Mayor Boarhead believes his policies still help keep transparency between him and the citizens.
“I would say that we are extremely transparent,” said Boarhead. “All of our business meetings are open, we answer questions that are submitted to us. I take meetings by appointment, because I do have a day job as do most members of the council. So I would say that we were extremely transparent.”
During the city council meeting, Councilman Kendall Sterrett said their current policy needs to change.
“Clearly the policy we have in place is not working very well,” said Sterrett. “So, what I’d like to do is go back to the previous policy which allows people to sign up and speak to the mayor and city council.”
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Councilman Sterrett said he wanted to put a motion during today’s meeting to allow citizens to speak directly to city officials in future meetings.
The city councilmembers will vote on his motion during the next Chickasaw city council meeting which is Feb. 28.
The motion needs a majority rule to go through.