Hattiesburg citizens forum at a standstill

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg City Council tabled the citizens forum by a 4-1 vote in Tuesday night's meeting.

Councilwoman Deborah Delgado (Ward 2) was the only nay.

Councilman Henry Naylor (Ward 5) has been one of the leaders in bringing the forum back to the agenda, and he said he hopes to see the forum make its way back for the citizens.

"I think citizens forum is a big part in them being able to have that impact [on city issues]," said Naylor.

The forum was taken away at the end of 2013 and put on hold for a minimum of 90 days in order to restructure the forum.

"I have not had any reactions from any council members to say that they flat out do not want it," said Naylor. "They just have some concerns about the order in which it would take place."

Naylor said the changes include enforcing a time limit for citizens who address the council as well as a way to have order when individuals speak.

"I think it will be things we will be able to address," said Naylor. "I just hate the idea that it's later rather than sooner."

A letter was submitted to the council by the Council of Neighborhoods Board requesting the forum be reinstated. Frankie Benton, a member of that board and a frequent attendee of city council meetings, said it's past time for the forum to be available to citizens.

"There was a time when we could come up here and express ourselves to what was going on in our community," said Benton. "Here lately, they've decided they don't want to hear us."

Council president Kim Bradley said the forum will not be considered until other city issues have been addressed, including but not limited to, the mayor's department head appointments and the wastewater project.

"I do hate that we weren't able to get it done on today, but I do think that with the concerns from many of the citizens that were here on today and have been here in the past, I hate to think that we're not going to put their wishes first and not have it reinstated," said Naylor. "I think at some point, hopefully in the near future, that we will have it reinstated."

The next council meeting is Tuesday, July 8.

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