Speak Outs
Speak Out
Should a City Council ban applause?

Sept. 30, 2011

By John Vettese, Student Voices staff writer

When bodies of government meet, it’s not always quiet.

If they’re talking about something citizens are passionate about, the chambers might be abuzz. If there’s a lot of controversy, there might even be yelling – from those in the crowd as well as elected officials.

But gathering public feedback is a key part of running a democratic society. That’s why governments of all levels allow room for citizen participation. At the local level in particular, meetings are frequently attended by crowds of citizens, and most of these meetings have designated points on their agenda to allow for public comment.

But that is not the case everywhere. In Peekskill, N.Y., the City Council voted in January to remove the regular public comment sessions from its meetings. In September, it took another vote – to ban clapping from public meetings. City officials told the local CBS News affiliate that the move was meant to make the meetings more calm and orderly.

“We’ve had to end meetings because the disruptions became too unruly,” said Mayor Mary Foster.

Citizens are not happy about the new law, which they call disrespectful. One resident, Jim Adler, told CBS that it was an attempt to silence viewpoints that Mayor Foster does not agree with. Foster, however, says it is just an attempt to conduct government business at these meetings without interruption.

Critics might feel the “no clapping” law is unfair or unjust – but it is legal.

Governments have a duty to promote openness – this was legislated by the federal government in amendments to the Freedom of Information Act in 1976, often called the Sunshine Act. Each state passed its own specific versions of the laws, with the intention of creating greater openness in government operations and spelling out the rights of the public to participate and have their say. But each state’s interpretation is different.

The New York Open Meetings Law only makes the following requirements of government meetings:
  • The public must have the right to attend, listen to the debates, and watch the decision-making process in action.
  • The government must advertise the times and location of each meeting in advance.
  • The government must take minutes of everything that occurs.
The law is silent about allowing the public to speak at meetings. An article on the New York Department of State website reads, “Although public bodies are not required to permit the public to speak at their meetings, many have chosen to do so. In those instances, it has been advised that a public body should do so by adopting reasonable rules that treat members of the public equally.”

What do you think?

Should the Peekskill council ban clapping from public meetings? Do you think it’s in the city’s interest to conduct government business without interruption? Or should it allow its citizens to speak their mind, and show approval through applause? If you were mayor of Peekskill, would you change this law? Why or why not? If you would, how would you make it different? Join the discussion!
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Comments
3/24/2013
CT
Alex
Galante
Applause should not be banned altogether, but should be controlled instead of allowed to be extreme. If applause is causing the meetings to become unruly, then the people ruling the meeting should have everyone calm down. But when people are not allowed to show their opinions at public meetings, people will not come to meetings, and they'll lose their democratic voices. Town meetings should allow the townspeople to speak their minds and have a say in their government.

5/11/2012
porterville
salinna
monache/smith
i believe that they have no right to ban a plause. Whats so wrong with applausing. It isnt really a sign of disrestpect. If it was disrespectful than people would be arguing or telling someone its rude. Though there basicly jus acknologing there statememt. Thus they dont have a right just for giving them a good job.

5/11/2012
Porterville/CA
Andres
Mr.Smith/Monache
They shouldn’t be allowed to ban clapping from public meetings. I feel by doing so they are trying to silence you and are violating the right to free expressions. All citizens should be allowed to speak their mind on public meetings since that is what a public meeting is about, the opinion of the citizens. I would definitely change the law since I think it is unjust.

5/7/2012
Porterville/CA
Mario
Smith/Monache
Applause is what I believe is, an act of freedom of speech. Applauding is a means to show that someone enjoys or approves of something or to show respect. Banning of applauding is a violation of the first amendment of the constitution. Respect is one of the issues which come with lack of applause. One may feel rejected or offended if an applause was not given, since many people see it as a sign of disrespect

11/6/2011
Irving, TX
Tahira A.
Bradley, Nimitz High School
I strongly believe that Peekskill council should not ban clapping from public meetings. I understand that the clapping may be a bit “distracting”, but this is how citizens, that attend the meeting, get to express their feelings as if they agree or disagree with the city councils decision. If the clapping is loud, it shows that they are completely in favor of the council's decision and truly believe that they are making the ethical or right decision, but if there isn't a clap or there isn't a commotion, it shows that the people do not feel like they are making the right decision, and basically this government is “For the people, by the people.” Clapping is also an like a for of expression, which is very similar to the 1st amendment, and we are obliged to have our first amendment rights not taken away from us. If I was mayor of Peekshill, I would most definitely change this law. What I mean by change, is to completely abolish this law because it's not fair for the people. The government's duty is to always keep in mind of the people and think if this decision benefits it's the people or not, and I truly feel like this law is hurting us citizens, which basically means the government is not doing there job. They should definitely reconsider this law. This why I feel like it is very essential to allow clapping in the City Council meetings and should absolutely not be banned.

11/4/2011
Benson/Arizona
Mike
Mr. Sorenson/Benson High School
I think that applause should be allowed until it is to a rate of distraction or disrespect

11/4/2011
Irving/Texas
Shelby
Bradley/Nimitz
I think the Peekskill council should not be able to tell people they can not clap, its like a type of freedom of speech. I do not think it is in the cities interest to conduct government business with out interruption, people should be able to voice or clap their opinion. If i was the mayor i would change the law back immediately to make the citizens happy. I would just try and calm the applause in a better manor.

10/31/2011
bedford/tx
Lindsey
bradley/nimitz high school
I don't think that the city council has the right to ban applause during their meeting. They can have police enforcement their to take care of participants if the meetings do get too unruly,but the citizens of that city deserve to voice their opinions without getting up and recieving only a few minutes to speak about what they want fixed.

10/17/2011
Irving, TX
Rocio :)
Bradley/Nimitz
I don't believe the Mayor made the right choice in banning applause from their public meetings. Whats the point of conducting a meeting that deals with your citizens if they can't show their approval or appreciation for your ideas? I understand that they all want to keep their meetings "calm and orderly" but honestly, banning applause reactions is just ridiculous. The whole problem with this issue is that the government is using their status to control our actions. They don't like the rowdy noise we create, so they decide to make a rule in which we cannot be loud at all. This is how our freedoms begin to be limited, by small issues that begin in our own comminuty. I don't think this is fair, and if I was a citizen of this city, I would be outside protesting this!

10/17/2011
Irving/Tx
Vanessa B.
Bradley/Nimitz
A City Council should not ban applause. It shows how the people feel. How are they suppose to know how the people feel if they are not allowed to show appreciation.? I understand they want to keep it orderly but they should be allowed to at least clap for what they agree for.

10/14/2011
Irving/ Tx
Caterine Cruz
Bradley/ Nimitz
City Council meeting are suppose to be a place of business . I understand they want to ban clapping but they shouldn't ban people to the meeting. People have the right to speak their mind. If i was the mayor i would at let ban clapping but allow citizens to attend meeting. People need to speak their mind to make the country a better place to live. Government can't be in charge of everything.

10/13/2011
Irving, TX
Cynthia Gonzalez
Bradley/Nimitz
Peekskill was very wrong in banning clapping from their city council meetings. These meeting are there for the residents of the city to go and voice their opinions on what has been done and what needs to be done. The city needs to listen to what the residents have to say and just because they don't agree with something does not mean that they have to go and ban everything that has the people involved. The city should allow people to talk about what they want to, as long as they do it in a proper and respectful manner. At these meetings the problems of the city's are viewed and seen from many points of view and with banning the peoples interaction with the problems; the council will become unaware of many things that needed to be brought to their attention. The people have every right to go and speak their minds at the city meetings and the mayor has no right to go and take that away from them.

10/11/2011
Irving/Texas
Carmen
Bradley/Nimitz
If a City Council ban applause, that's a start to a government that rules over the people. If people have no say in what is going on in their city, then what is the point of a democracy if we don't enforce one? Today, the government is getting too powerful. They think that because they have more power than the average American, they can pass any and all the laws they want to without the consent of anyone! If we let them ban applause, then we are taking out freedom of speech pretty much. We cannot express our opinion of how we feel. We might as well take out freedom to protest, freedom of speech, or even freedom of religion!

10/7/2011
Sidney Montana
BoBo
Mr. Faulhaber
City Council shouldn't ban applause because there are some people who like to be applauded. It also gives someone who isn't comfortable speaking in front of other people a confidence boost. If the people are being rude and disruptive they should be removed but if they are applauding the person they shouldn't be removed because they are supporting that person's topic or whatever the person is doing. Applauding at the end of someone's speech is polite even if you don't like that person's speech. Its polite and almost everyone likes applauding someone they really like.

10/7/2011
Sidney MT
Katey
Ms. Fontana
I don't think they should cut out applause and speaking out completely. I think that it may be essential for the people to be somewhat quiet but taking that right completely away from them is wrong. You cannot just say that we cannot have an opinion on something. Mabye all the states should hold part of the session for what we have to say about the topic.

10/7/2011
sidney, montana
steffan
miss fontana
When i am in a meeting, and I am trying to make a decision, It often happens that people applaud and I tend to take the side of whatever arguement is getting a lot of people clapping. Its hard to hear a lot of people who are for something as they get excited and make my own decision.

10/7/2011
Sidney MT
Katey
Ms. Fontana
I don't think they should cut out applause and speaking out completely. I think that it may be essential for the people to be somewhat quiet but taking that right completely away from them is wrong. You cannot just say that we cannot have an opinion on something. Mabye all the states should hold part of the session for what we have to say about the topic.

10/7/2011
Irving/TX
Tambra B.
Bradley/Nimitz
Banning an uproar from public meetings where business must be conducted is essential: nothing would be done otherwise. But, denying the public the ability to speak in the public forum, with both the council and the citizens present, as well as denying them the second most common judgement tactic crowds employ, is wrong. I wouldn't touch the clapping law, if I had the ability to do so. Rather, I would instate a specific, designated, and well ordered time for concerned citizens to speak their minds, with certain limitations on things like length. In my mind, denying both common forms of addressing a problem in public to the people of a city is like telling them that their representatives don't care what they have to say, and that just can't happen. It's inappropriate for the citizens to hinder any progress, certainly, but it's reasonable to allow them to speak, and while not constitutionally protected, the right to speak to the people and their representatives in an open and public forum seems like a right people should have.

10/6/2011
Irving TX
Michael P
Bradley/Nimitz
Freedom of speech is and has been the major reason our country is so noticed and set apart from others. I don't want to sound as if America is the “greatest country on earth” we, just as every other country, has its advantages and disadvantages. In our formed government and us as citizens have the rights guaranteed by the constitution. And one of those rights most beloved by our citizens since the creation of the bill of rights is, freedom of speech. Clapping, shouting, and negative remarks about our government and its faults, are all apart of our culture. Now in saying that , there is a time that should be put aside for all of this to happen. We as Americans cannot be afraid to raise our voices when the government is wrong from our eyes. If we become so scared of our government to dare raise our voices at it, then we have become equal to our neighboring communist and extremest countries. This small law made in one city can change everything in time. Any decision made by our government even at the local level, can distribute to the higher government in a relatively short amount of time compared to our history and future. The Peekskill council members have just committed the biggest mistake in the eyes of us citizens. This is a small attempt to silence the views that we need to express. Now in all of these obvious truths, I do believe our government has their right to conduct business for our safety and security. So the solution that was attempted for this problem desperately needs some revision. I believe that a clap time should be given no more than 1 minute after each speaker has spoken. And anyone who claps and shouts after the 1 minute mark, should be dealt with accordingly and that decision should be up to the cities or states. Now if this goes to a national court I would like to see the ruling be in favor for us the citizens. If I were the mayor, I would seriously revise and reconsider this new law for the sake of all of our citizens future.

10/6/2011
Irving/TX
Mariah B.
Bradley/Nimitz
City Council meetings should always allow strong citizen representation, for that is the central purpose. However, having attended a meeting myself, I've seen that sometimes citizens can foment the meeting with their fervent feelings on certain issues. The City Council shouldn't have to ban applause from public forums, just use measures to prevent a ruckus that would cause a definite pause in the meeting. Honestly, the clapping is a potent signal of whether the citizens agree or disagree with their council, so it shouldn't be completely banned. If the people were forced to sit there quietly, without so much of a peep, then what is the point of a citizen's forum? What is the point have allowing citizens there? How would the people be represented if that was the case? They simply wouldn't be. The members of the city council just need to concern themselves with regulating the meetings and limiting the rowdiness by instating that the people are not allowed to cause a scene while attending the city meetings. As long as the passionate people don't bring bull horns, clapping to share their imput should be okay.

10/6/2011
Irving, TX
Ashley Bo
Bradley/Nimitz
I do not think that Peekskill council should ban clapping. Clapping shows kindness, being polite, or showing respect to someone when a speaker is done talking. The city can conduct meetings without interruptions, but people should clap if they want to. If I was mayor of Peekskill, I would not change the law. I do not think it is a big deal. I think applause is not a disturbance. Yelling and screaming is a disturbance, and that is a big difference of an applause. Meetings should just accept applauses.

10/6/2011
Irving, TX
Joel S
Bradley/Nimitz
Clapping at a government meeting can me extremely disruptive, and its rarely really necessary. I was recently at a School Board meeting where many citizens got up to speak against a recent Board decision. The room was packed with people against this decision, and there wasn’t even enough sitting room. Whenever a citizen got up to speak against this decision emphasizing the apparent racism in schools and demanding new programs made for minority students, they were met with long, thundering applause from the crowd. This happened after almost every citizen spoke, and the School Board President had to pound her gavel many times to calm the crowd down. These instances of applause detracted from the ability of the meeting to go on smoothly, and expressions of agreement like applause and cheering aren’t out rightly necessary.

10/6/2011
Irving,Tx
Rosa L
Bradley/Nimitz
Ban clapping in city meetings is outrageous. Yes sometimes the people do get riled up in a subject important to them but by having a “NO CLAPPING” sign then the person that was speaking out would not feel the support of the rest. By being able to clap it gives members of the audience a voice without having to stand up in a crowd, and it shows the council that the people do care about the subject. The city council knows what issues to focus on because of public comment sessions. It would be nice if everyone just held their applause until the person finished speaking and not have outbursts while someone is speaking; it's rude to interrupt someone while their talking.

10/6/2011
Irving/TX
Jacob H.
Bradley/Nimitz
Citizen participation is essential for successful local government. I agree that it can get rather noisy at City Council meetings and that can be a little more than distracting. But the most important part is that the citizens are actually there to have a say in what goes on in their cities. Banning comment sessions such as the citizens forum would be a grave mistake because the public needs to be open and heard about what is going on in certain areas. As for the applause, I believe that, being a technologically advanced society, we could find some sort of innovative way to show our support while still maintaining formality. One such way would be to have a remote in each seat that shows a 1 to 10 scale and is connected to a graph projected onto the wall which depicts the number of supporters of a certain measure on the y-axis while recording how many 1's, 2's, etc. are recorded by the people on the x-axis.

10/5/2011
Irving/Texas
Kathryn G.
Bradley/Nimitz
City Council meetings are definitely not a place for loud, roaring applause. There is enough noise with small whispers and microphones deciding to act up. It seems like it would be a distraction to the council to have to wait for the crowd to quite down for them to continue the meeting. Applause that interrupt or prevent continuation is rude and inappropriate.

10/5/2011
Irving/TX
Luz V.
Bradley/Nimitz
City Council meetings are public so that the citizens they represent may attend to watch what their decision makers are doing and to participate in the process. At times the participation can get out of hand, but citizens should be involved since they're the ones who will be most effected by the decisions of the council. When the city of Peekskill, New York did away with public comment sessions and audience clapping they did away with citizen participation. Eliminating these practices may have enabled the council to work without interruption, but it also left them working without the input of those they are supposed to be working for. Thus, the elimination may have been legal but it took away from the people and the city.

10/4/2011
Irving/TX
Sara
Bradley/Nimitz
I would change the law. There's not really a reason not to let the citizens show how they feel about certain subjects through applause. It's a normal way of expression. It's something the council should take in consideration, because then they can see what the people think about what was said. If they really have that much controversy then they can set rules or standards that apply to it, but taking it away period isn't the way to handle it.

10/4/2011
Irving/Texas
Kirstin F.
Bradley/Nimitz
I think they should be able to ban clapping from meetings if it is solely for the purpose of keeping meetings orderly. It is most definitely in the cities interest to conduct business without interruption because without interruption they can handle their business more quickly. On the other hand citizens should be able to speak up but not to the point where it hinders the progress of the cities meeting.If i were the mayor of Peekskill I would change the law to further the success of my meetings by allowing the citizens to give their input but only allowing them a certain amount of time and a certain number of people on a first come first serve basis.

10/3/2011
Irving/Texas
Marcus A.
Helen Bradley/Nimitz High School
Government business should be conducted without interruption. Of course, disruptions are bound to spark once a council flares up any controversial issue. Therefore, the Peekskill council should ban clapping from public meetings, because such a law will enable city council members to fully focus on their agenda that day. They already have to deal with a cluster of eye balls watching their every move, so this “clapping ban” would be a suitable alternative. However, citizens should also have the right to display their approval or disapproval of any and all potential actions, but within reason. How can we expect our city counsel representatives to comply to the best interest of the people if you have one person barging his foot in dislike of one issue and another person cheering vehemently for the same issue? Peace and quiet is essential for ensuring that the most beneficial choices are made. Yet, if I were the mayor of Peekskill, I would change the law into one that bans boisterous and overly disruptive behavior. Applause for approval is understandable, but those who disagree should instead seek their own way in speaking with the city council members. Professionalism, not immaturity, should be emphasized, especially for purposing of hosting productive meetings.

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