Monday, February 1, 2010

This is wrong on so many levels!

Tensions erupt, resident arrested at Lackawanna Council meeting
By Harold McNeil

Long-simmering tensions between Lackawanna lawmakers and 1st Ward residents boiled over Tuesday night, triggering the arrest of one resident who refused a police order to leave the Council Chambers.

Shanon Richardson, of Gates Avenue, was physically removed by police officers from the Council meeting and jailed — a move that angered the 1st Ward’s largely black residents who have long charged that lawmakers ignore their community’s issues.

Residents became irate when Council President Charles Jaworski informed them that, individually, they could address the Council for only 3 minutes instead of 5, and only on issues that were on the Council agenda for that meeting. Both changes had been adopted unanimously at the Council’s Jan. 4 meeting. Richardson was among those who complained about the changes.

“You just cannot tell us . . . that you don’t want to hear what we’re concerned about, because our taxes pay your salary and we put you in a place to make sure that our voice and concerns and every one of our issues are dealt with,” Richardson said.

As Richardson continued with his grievances, he wound up angering Jaworski by accusing lawmakers of facilitating crime in the 1st Ward through neglect.

“You guys are manufacturing crime in the 1st Ward to where you guys have all the jobs. It’s all the same names on the School Board,” Richardson said.

Richardson’s comments were drowned out by other residents shouting in support and Jaworski ordering police to remove him from the Council Chambers. When Richardson refused — protesting that his 3 minutes were not up — he was handcuffed and removed.

That act, in turn, sparked an uproar among residents — some protesting bitterly before leaving the chambers.

Jaworski, meanwhile, called for more police officers as a precaution before adjourning the meeting.

As the 100 people filed out of the meeting, many were surprised to see officers — accompanied by police dogs — watching them closely as they left.

Several residents remained in City Hall, and more then 50 signed a petition protesting Richardson’s arrest.

Richardson’s mother, Sharon Thompson of Steelawanna Avenue, said others remained after the meeting to help raise the $1,600 bail required for Richardson’s release.

Lackawanna police declined Tuesday to confirm the charges against Richardson, but his mother said he was charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration, trespassing and resisting arrest.


Councilmembers Say Resident Took Too Much Time To Speak

There was not an empty seat inside Lackawanna City Council Chambers. Residents were there to be heard and voice displeasure about the arrest of a resident who spoke too long at the last meeting.

Shanon Richardson ended up in the slammer because Lackawanna City Council members say he spoke too long when he attempted to criticize them a couple of weeks ago.

This year, the Council approved a new rule limiting public comments to three minutes and the public can speak only about items on the agenda.
This year, the Council approved a new rule limiting public comments to three minutes and the public can speak only about items on the agenda.

Council President Chuck Jaworski says he will bend the rule. "I personally, as Council President for the last two years do not have a timer. If the people are speaking and talking about the agenda items, really there is no time limit."

Residents were able to speak longer than three minutes and about various topics at Monday night's meeting.

John Ingram, a resident of Lackawanna told the Council, "the citizens are not here to fight you, we want to work with you, but if you're looking for a fight, or trying to start a fight, we will fight."