VILLAGE OF RIDGEWOOD
A guide for Public Meetings
this document is provided to assist and familiarize a person, who wishes to participate in the operation of Village Council meetings, with the municipal government process. It is not meant to, and does not in any way, limit or restrict your participation. It cannot in any way control your participation. It is offered simply to be of assistance in understanding the process of the Ridgewood municipal governing body.
· There are generally three Village Council meetings per month — a Work Session on the first and fourth Wednesday and a Public Meeting on the second Wednesday. In June, July, November and December there is one Work Session, usually on the first Wednesday and a Public Meeting on the second Wednesday of these months.
· Voting can only occur at a scheduled “Public Meeting”. No official vote or action can be taken at a Work Session. However, a “Special Public Meeting” can be scheduled during a Work Session, provided there has been adequate public notice of the date, time, place, and a description of the action to be taken at the Special Public Meeting. This notice must be in compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act.
· There are two types of legislation: Resolutions and Ordinances.
- Ordinances address matters of a permanent or general character, are considered to be legislative, and therefore have the force of law.
- Resolutions are temporary in operation and are deemed administrative only. See N.J.S.A. § 40:49-1.
o A Resolution may be moved and adopted (approved) at the same meeting. Usually, the Village Council will discuss the nature of the action authorized in the Resolution at the Work Session preceding the Public Meeting, when it will be voted upon/adopted. Resolutions are adopted by a majority vote (at least three out of five Councilmembers in favor). At the Public Meeting when a vote is taken, Resolutions that have been unanimously supported at a previous Work Session are typically bundled into a “Consent Agenda.” These Resolutions are read by title only and voted on as a group of Resolutions without discussion. However, if any Councilmember wishes to discuss a particular Resolution or if a Resolution is not unanimously supported, then that Resolution is not included on the Consent Agenda and is instead, read in full, discussed, and then followed by a roll call vote. Similarly, if a Councilmember recuses himself or herself from voting on a particular Resolution, that Resolution will not be included on the Consent Agenda. Instead, it will be read in full and discussed separately, followed by a roll call vote.
o Ordinances may be discussed at a Work Session, but are voted on, in two separate public meetings. An Ordinance is formally introduced at a Public Meeting at what is called the “first reading” of the Ordinance. It is voted on by the Council to be set for a “final” or “second” reading. The date of the “second reading’ is announced when the Ordinance is introduced. The Ordinance is then advertised in full or in summary, and is posted on the bulletin board in the lobby of Village Hall. It is also advertised in the legal ad section of the official newspaper of the Village, noting the date, time, and place of the Ordinance’s “public hearing,” which is generally at the next regular Public Meeting. This is called the “second reading” and Public Hearing of the ordinance, at which time, members of the public may comment on the proposed Ordinance. Once the Public Hearing is concluded, the ordinance is then voted on by the Village Council. If the Village Council wishes to make significant changes to the Ordinance, it must be reintroduced (given a first reading again) and the process starts over again. Regular Ordinances require a majority vote for approval (at least three out of five Councilmembers in favor), and Bond Ordinances require a supermajority vote (at least four out of five Councilmembers in favor). Regular Ordinances take effect 20 days after adoption, and Bond Ordinances take effect 20 days after final publication.
The Mayor is the Presiding Officer at Council meetings, and the Deputy Mayor presides in the Mayor’s absence. The Presiding Officer sets the meeting agenda in concert with the Village Manager. The Presiding Officer also rules on any points of order (procedural questions) subject to appeal by a Councilmember. Any such appeal must be seconded by another Councilmember and is then immediately subject to debate and is either upheld or overturned by a majority vote of the Council.
Other Councilmembers are entitled to the floor (speak) only upon recognition by the Presiding Officer.
Any Councilmember can call a point of order, which is then ruled on, by the Presiding Officer, subject to appeal (see above).
· A motion to adjourn the meeting is always in order and shall take effect upon a majority vote by the Council.
Public comments and Decorum
As of January 2023, the Village Council approved hybrid meetings where those who wish to view the Village Council meetings live may do so via Swagit, YouTube, Zoom, on the Village website, or on Cable TV. This also gives those who are not present at the Village Council meetings an opportunity to comment at these meetings, by either calling in or "raising a hand" on a virtual platform.
· At Village Council meetings, there are up to three opportunities for members of the public to speak:
o Initial public comment - generally occurs at the beginning of a Council Work Session (discussed above) and at a Public meeting after the approval of bills and minutes. In order to allow the Council to undertake and complete the business of the meeting, this initial public comment session at the beginning of the Council meeting is limited to 40 minutes, with each speaker given three minutes to speak. Presently, up to ten in-person attendees at the meeting may speak first, at which point, remote attendees are given an opportunity to speak. If time allows, additional in-person attendees may have an opportunity to speak, until the 40-minute limit has been reached. The Presiding Officer in his/her discretion may extend the initial public comment.
o Public comment at the end of Council meetings – this occurs after the Council has conducted the business of the meeting. Speakers are given three minutes to speak at this session, with no overall time limit. This public comment session is open to both in-person and remote participants. The Council tries to adjourn the meetings no later than 11:00 p.m. and may extend beyond that hour, depending on the circumstances of the Agenda and the number of persons desiring to speak.
o Ordinance Second Reading – this is a third opportunity to speak at a Council meeting, but is limited to discussing the content of the Ordinance under consideration. As discussed above, when an Ordinance is introduced, it is thereafter scheduled for a “public hearing” at the second reading of that Ordinance. Comments must pertain only to the Ordinance and may proceed for five minutes per person, with no overall time limit for the public hearing on the Ordinance. During this public comment session, a person who has already spoken on the Ordinance may speak again, provided he or she is not repetitive and only after everyone else who wishes to speak has had the opportunity to do so. Both in-person and those on remote access may comment during the Public Hearing of an ordinance.
WHERE TO SPEAK:
Anyone wishing to speak in person at a public comment session must approach the lectern and will be heard on a first-come, first-served basis. The speaker will see a visual countdown clock in the front of the Council meeting room (on the left side for those seated in the audience) or some other type of timer, with an alarm. Those on remote access must be acknowledged by the Presiding Officer, before speaking.
Speakers may say what they wish during the initial public comment session and at the public comment session at the end of the meeting. By law, the speaker cannot be disruptive or disorderly, and may not use language that threatens anyone or is vulgar or verbally abusive. The Council recognizes the First Amendment rights of Free Speech, but the law allows the enforcement of certain limitations.
The Village Council asks that you be respectful of the persons who you wish to talk about, during Public Comments. If a person’s actions or words are disruptive or disorderly, the Presiding Officer of the meeting may not allow that person to continue to speak, unless that person agrees to abide by these rules, and a majority of the Council agrees that the speaker may continue.
A speaker cannot be interrupted for any reason, other than a call to order (“point of order”). Unless a speaker is called to order, he or she does not need to concede the floor, unless the time period for the speaker’s presentation has expired.
The Council asks that any person attending a meeting respects the rights of others to speak, refrains from public outbursts and ridicule or any violation of these rules. The orderly progress of the meeting and the Village business, benefits from respect for others.
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