Niagara County sig

Niagara County Courthouse in Lockport

LOCKPORT — The Niagara County Legislature will reconsider a nearly decade-old policy that relegated discussion of certain topics until the late evening hours of its monthly meetings. 

Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, said for years the Democratic caucus has sought to change the structure, which since 2010 has permitted residents to discuss agenda topics following presentations to lawmakers but required any other matter to be discussed as the final section of the meeting.

"There’s no reason why the public should have to wait two and three hours to speak about something that’s good for the county," Virtuoso said. 

Chairman Keith McNall, R-Lockport, referred the measure to the legislature's administration committee to eview earlier this month. 

Majority Leader Randy Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, has not publicly stated his support or opposition to the idea, saying he will wait until the topic is discussed during an upcoming session.

"It wasn’t done to kill it, it was done to review it," Bradt said of the committee referral. 

Bradt said he considered the legislature "liberal" in its existing policy – which permits speakers three minutes to the start of the meeting, and an unlimited amount of time at the end of the meeting – in comparison to other municipalities.

"Let’s put it through the proper channels and vet it," he said.

When the changes were initially put in place, a handful of residents protested. They asserted that the new system was aimed at silencing lawmakers' critics. Village of Newfane resident Edwina Luksch, was among the protesters and said at the time that lawmakers "do not want their problems to be brought out by the public.”

Virtuoso said the policy change nine years ago did have the affect protestors feared, saying that engaged and consistent public speakers were "completely wiped out" by the rule revision.

The administration committee is scheduled to meet July 29, according to the legislature's calendar. The next regularly scheduled meeting for lawmakers is in August.