Roberts had been reading a long editorial on squalid conditions in a house where Raynard Brown allegedly killed Orange Police Detective Kieran Shields. The house was a filthy hangout for squatters and street people and had numerous code violations, a subject dear to hearts of Murray and Helga Roberts.
Roberts tried to finish reading, but Van Blake made him stop.
“I’m really disappointed in you, Mr. Van Blake,“ Roberts said.
A few minutes earlier, Van Blake was applauded when the told Councilman Cory Storch, “I do not appreciate the way in which you brought your issue to the council.”
Storch had asked for a consent vote on a major redevelopment proposal to be a voice vote instead, saying the developer had not resolved all the issues connected with a prior project.
Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green later rose to praise Van Blake for his hard line, saying, “It’s taken less than one meeting for you to grow up and be a professional.“
Green, a state Assemblyman, urged Van Blake to remain tough and said he himself never allows anyone to disrespect him.
“It’s time people stop embarrassing the city,“ he said.
Green told Van Blake, “As a young man, you have gained respect as never before.“
He said citizens should get behind Van Blake and “stop trying to destroy the city” with negative comments.
Van Blake succeeded the late Ray Blanco, who at his last meeting on July 21 removed from the agenda some late submissions from the administration.
“This administration will not be made fools of again by anyone,” Blanco said forcefully.
Addressing City Administrator Carlton McGee, Blanco thundered, “You are under orders to get this administration in order.“
Blanco said he had done everything in his power to make the administration look good and repeated, “I will not be made a fool of again.“
He praised the current council as having “the moral and political fortitude to withstand anything,” but said there were deadlines and rules for submissions to the governing body.
“Mr. President, we hear you loud and clear,” McGee said, adding there was “no disrespect intended.“
Given the range of perceived disrespect in the two meetings - governing body dissed by administration, a council member piping up out of turn and a citizen abusing his right to public comment - Plaintalker suggests maybe all involved need to find out what respect means to each party.
Blanco’s reaction came after repeated “walk-ons,“ last-minute submissions from the administration. Indeed, before Blanco came in late from a New York event, there was a request at the regular meeting to add an item on the spot, without the public having any chance to see it.
Van Blake’s actions, while setting a tone, made it seem unruly of Storch to speak his conscience and smote one citizen while others talked over the limit. Before the next regular meeting on Sept. 7, maybe everybody can think about respect - just a little bit.