A Manassas police officer sat in the corner of the meeting room for the Manassas Airport Commission on Thursday, ready for trouble.
Fortunately, there was none.
Thursday’s meeting was the second since the commission’s new policy on public comment went into effect.
The new policy was enacted and took effect during the last meeting in September.
The rules restrict public comments to “current or prospective airport activities,” or topics under consideration by the commission.
They also require that public comments be “courteous and civil in their presentation”and prohibit personal attacks, vulgar or threatening language and name-calling.
Airport Commission chair Dan L. Radtke said the police officer was there just in case.
“It was just on the recommendation of the city council that when you implement new policies and things like that, if something should happen that would require his services, he would be there,” Radtke said.
He said the presence of a police officer is not something the commission wants, or can have, on a continuing basis.
The public comment period was subdued, with two people speaking about the new policy.
Geoffrey Peterson, owner of Rising Phoenix Aviation, a business at the Manassas Regional Airport, said that the policy restricted speech.
“I would reiterate strongly to you that you reconsider your stated policy and the changes you have made,” Peterson said.
He added that the airport commission policy should more closely reflect the Manassas City Council policy, which does not restrict what citizens can talk about, except to ensure that comments are appropriate for the public.
Ron Mayer, who works for a number of different airport companies as an aircraft mechanic, also spoke at Thursday’s meeting.
He has previously said that the policy change is in response to criticism he has levelled at the commission in the past.
Mayer used to have a business at the airport, but he said that the policies of the commission put a stop to that years ago.
At Thursday’s meeting he passed out copies of a Manassas Journal Messenger editorial that called the new policy too broad. He said he agreed and added that the airport commission is trying to intimidate commission naysayers with the threat of arrest or removal from meetings.
“It’s like the Klansman driving the pickup truck telling the Negro being dragged behind it that his rights aren’t being violated,” Mayer said.
Radtke responded after the public comment period, saying that the public’s complaints have been heard and will be discussed further.
After the meeting, Radtke said that the policy change is a “work in progress.”
“We tried to do things to facilitate the ease of doing business here,” he said. “And if they have some comments they want to come back to us, I personally want to talk to them so they understand where we came from,” he said
Radtke said he is not sure what kind of forum further discussion would take place in, but it would take place.