Prince William County officials are considering changing public comment procedures at Board of Supervisors meetings.
Board Chair Ann Wheeler recently voiced concerns about the structure of public input as residents this year have frequently stretched the length of public meetings.
Public comment was more limited in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but gradually became more robust throughout 2021. In the past year, it has primarily been driven by those supporting or opposing the PW Digital Gateway.
Supervisor Yesli Vega, R-Coles, noted she has been one of the more frequent targets of partisan attacks. “I’ve clearly been on the receiving end of the most vitriolic hatred that any board member has had thrown at them by left-wing activists.”
However, Vega doesn’t support any proposal “to limit public comment time in any way.”
“The answer isn’t to limit speech and the First Amendment opportunities of our residents,” she said. “If the Chair doesn’t want super long meetings, perhaps she should put a pause on pursuing her personal and political agenda, which has proven to be very divisive – hence the reason why our residents feel like they have to come out every week to petition their government.”
Vega doesn’t believe the length of public comment places a burden on those with business before the board because they “eventually get heard.”
Supervisor Kenny Boddye, D-Occoquan, said public comment is “an important fixture” in board meetings, and he supports “allowing it in many forms to be as accessible as possible.”
While Boddye believes that “every resident who wants to have a voice in shaping our community should have that opportunity,” he’s “not sure that our current public comment procedures achieve this goal.”