Our job as City Council members is to make sure the city does what it is supposed to do while avoiding undesirable outcomes. We must do this in accordance with all laws, including the Brown Act, which requires that council decisions be made in public.
Council meetings are one of the few times the entire council may meet to discuss city business. The meetings are broadcast live on Metro Cable Channel 14.
But some speakers at council meetings have begun playing to the cameras, using vulgar and profane language. Others refuse to stop speaking after their time has expired. Still others shout from their seats, or clap, whistle, stomp, hiss and boo whenever any speaker offers an opinion different from theirs.
When police officers are called to remove those who continue disruptive behavior, a confrontational and volatile situation is created, especially when the individual refuses to leave.
Infrequent attendees at council meetings are shocked and horrified by all this. Even those having legitimate business before the city have refused to attend out of fear of subjecting themselves to this chaos and vitriol.
How is the city’s business to be conducted while respecting freedom of speech and the public’s right to address the council?
If we all agreed on everything, there would be no need for public debate. This is not our reality. Our city is made up of people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds and from different experiences, all of which influence their beliefs and opinions.
I call upon all those addressing the council to follow some simple rules. Ensure their issue is within the city’s jurisdiction. Speak without using vulgarity or disparaging others. Respect the rights of others to speak without interruption, even if their opinions differ. Read and comply with the council rules of decorum, which are printed on the back of the speaker request forms.
The business of the city is serious and deserves better then we have seen. We cannot and should not capitulate to a few who would destroy meaningful dialogue in favor of their two minutes of cable TV fame.