Monday, June 26, 2017

Inconvenient isn’t a rights infringement

Nov 20.

Last night’s Council meeting

The usual speakers were again all crying the same refrain. In this case, they called it a 1st Amendment issue. They seem to believe the First gives rights to the public to speak to the Council – whenever they want, and at their convenience.

Actually it forbids governments from unduly limiting citizens’ right to address government. They are granted no rights to speak at a given time or place. That is, the Mayor, who conducts the meeting, is not obligated to make it as convenient as possible for them to speak.

Genis cited a law indicating a resolution is needed to change the meeting format. Note that resolutions are statements of position, they aren’t laws and aren’t enforceable. Her obstructionism wasn’t concern for law, it was just petty grandstanding.

An uniformed cry with a personal story

Leese gave an impassioned speech defending what she thinks the frequent speakers’ 1st amendment rights might be. She cited her experience as a young mother who wanted to protest swimsuit photography in Teewinkle Park. She arrived late to a City Council or a Parks and Recreation committee meeting – she doesn’t remember which – and they let her speak anyway.

Object to being inconvenienced

The objections seem to cluster around whether commenters who want to vent should have to wait until later to speak; they’d rather vent and then go home and be done with it. They have a right to speak early and go home, but those who are there to conduct City business don’t have the right to have the agenda honored?

Could add fairness

However, two valid issues were raised. First, the Council needs a way to let people speak who hadn’t planned to speak initially, such as those who want to address an issue raised during the discussion.

This could be satisfied by letting them sign up to speak any time before the final commentary. Their turns would start after all other speakers have had their turn at the end of the meeting.

The second issue is people who want help from the Council on matters like sidewalks not being fixed or fines they think are unwarranted.  Presently, they have to play the “speaker lottery” alongside the frequent complainers. We believe they should be heard first; that is, the council’s duty to help citizens comes before its duty to hear residents talk about whatever they want for three minutes.

One way to do that is to start the comments with requests for City Council intervention, then use the remaining time for the “any subject” talks.

Lots of talking, little thinking in the commentary

Tuesday night it was clear that the complainers’ thought-leaders hadn’t studied or even thought much about what the First Amendment guarantees. Consequently, their followers marched in lock step to complain about something they didn’t understand. That’s not unusual; the multiple-issue commenters often demonstrate that they haven’t read the staff studies about their “issue de jour,” either.

On the positive side, behavior of the complainers was less unruly than usual, and we heard no goose calls from their seats.


  1. Thanks for the comment, Jim.

    People who want to address the council have the right to do so. However, those scheduled to make presentations aren’t there to express themselves; they have an appointment to conduct City business. They should not be forced to stay late because lots of people wish to express themselves.

    If there’s a hardship imposed by lengthy discussion by Council members, that’s just how things work. Delaying City business so people who want to express their views can get home early would value expressing opinions over conducting Costa Mesa’s business.

    I believe that would be backward — and unjust.

  2. Nice observations and it got me thinking.

    I have watched my neighbors, mothers, kids, dinner, homework … per chance to sleep, having to wait until way way past bedtime for a chance to speak on rehabilitation homes. I c an’t remember one single comment about this topic, from those complaining.

    If the complainers are so worried about the chance for others to speak, perhaps they could recognize that they could exercise their free will and not speak, about the same thing at every meeting, and allow those they say they care about to have a priority. if they have something to say, then perhaps they should volunteer to wait until the end, and allow the time allocated to be utilized for those they say they care deeply about.

    Lastly, now we all know who to blame for an inability to go to Teewinkle park and get our family holiday holiday portrait taken, in a location absolutely loved by our kids, without first getting a permit.

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