Portland, Maine’s largest city, is the only municipality I know from York to Caribou that does not offer the public a consistent opportunity to speak on topics on or off the agenda at the beginning of every meeting.

Portland’s rules say that if the City Council doesn’t go beyond 11 p.m., folks will have an opportunity to speak on topics that aren’t on the agenda. That means I have to wait to see how long the meeting runs, and, if fortunate, have a chance to speak before 11.

What a way to silence the public – make the barrier so great that one finds it next to impossible to speak. Many people have to get children to bed or get up to work; not everyone can sit for four hours for a possible chance to speak.

I challenged this one night recently; Councilor Kevin Donoghue attempted to rule me out of order as “not germane to the topic.” Exactly! How can I speak if there isn’t a time allowed to do so?

I spoke on the minimum wage, then waited until 11. The meeting adjourned at 11:10; so – my point – there was no public audience.

Other municipalities researched have a public audience at the beginning of the agenda, allowing people a reasonable time to be heard.

I approached Mayor Michael Brennan after the meeting and met defensiveness, arrogance and dismissiveness. “I just listened to two hours of public comment. … What else did you want to speak about?”

Not the point. People should be able to speak on anything at any public meeting. A public figure should be able to receive concerns with an open mind. Instead, he added, “We have been doing this for over 30 years.”

Women didn’t vote until 1920, and slavery occurred until the Civil War; does that mean a continued practice warranted no change? Shameful!

Rosemarie De Angelis

former South Portland city councilor and mayor

South Portland