Thursday, March 10, 2011

Public Speech

Typically Solon has not placed limits on public comment although there is a provision in the charter that gives the chair discretion to limit comments to 5 minutes or not have public comments at all.  In practice these "gag" rules are only invoked for "hot" issues.

Last month's Safety Meeting on allowing Hunting in the city caused the usual few attendees to ballon to over 35 and also included print media as well as TV.

Russo, the chair of the Safety Committee responded to the large crowd by instituting a 2 min limit (down from the charter's 5 min) and a 30 min max (no such provision in the charter).  For this he was roundly criticized even by his political supporters.

This month's meeting, Public Works Commissioner Stanek brought in the ODOW and USDA to speak of a comprehensive plan for nearly 1 hr consisting of all maner of lethal methods while quickly dismissing non-lethal methods.  At no time did any city official address the huge costs of lethal methods compared to the lower costs and higher effectiveness of non-lethal methods.

After this very bias presentation, by people who get their funding by Hunting, Russo allowed the citizens to speak for 30 min.  After 20 min, he halted the discussion.  To his credit, and no doubt because of political pressure, he did allow each of the 4 people to speak for 5 minutes each.  He even allowed the citizens to ask questions, many weren't answered but at least they were asked on the record.

This in combination with Councilman Toni Richmond's lack of tolerance for questioning of her Bainbridge Rd Sidewalk Survey and her suggestion that Council limit public speech is a disturbing trend of intolerance to the citizens to whom they represent.  Both these councilman come up for re-election this year.  How ironic the city is holding it's first annual tolerance fair this Sunday, will city officials learn to be tolerant of their own constituents differing views?

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