The Polson City Council continues to stifle free speech. We had hoped that the new mayor and two new commissioners would realize that certain members of the public have had their rights trampled upon—repeatedly—and make positive changes. It is not happening.
Briefly, Ordinance 613 passed on August 15, 2005. Commonly known as the three-minute rule, the official title of the ordinance is:
AN ORDINANCE TO ENCOURAGE PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN MEETINGS OF THE POLSON CITY COUNCIL, AMENDING CHAPTER 2.06.060 OF THE MUNICIPAL CODE
That title is laughable. Anyone who regularly attends the city commission meetings will beyond a doubt notice that Ordinance 613 is used to discourage participation of any member of the community who offers a correction, a criticism, or an alternative point of view.
To begin with, the premise is wrong: WHEREAS, the Council desires to set forth specific expectations of individual behavior. [Is there any thinking person who agrees that is the function of government?]
The ordinance continues to explain:
WHEREAS…the monopolization of the public comment periods by the few may squelch and chill participation by the many, [the Council] finds it necessary to develop and provide specific procedures to ensure that all citizens wishing to be heard have the same reasonable opportunity to participate.
WHEREAS, the City Council finds that generally three minutes should provide a reasonable time in which citizens may state their comments, balancing the same against the right of all other citizens to participate, and encouraging the participation of all, but that the Council should reserve to itself the right to waive the period in particular circumstances where it finds additional comment and participation is reasonable and proper.
REALITY: The mayor reaches for the timer control as soon as someone approaches the podium to speak. There is a countdown clock on the wall that the COMMSSIONERS ARE SEEN WATCHING, rather than focusing on the speaker, as the clock counts down to zero. It appears not to matter what trouble the speaker went to in preparing for the opportunity to speak or what facts are being brought before the commission. When the clock reaches zero, the mayor interrupts the speaker, usually in mid-sentence, and states that time is up. This has nothing to do with allowing others time to speak. Often, there isn’t anyone else waiting to speak.
Read the entire Ordinance 613 HERE.
Now, the most shocking revelation will be presented. The photo shown below was taken at an MMIA workshop on March 26, 2014. This was training for government representatives. The six items written on the board were concerns of those present at the training. Read number 6.
HATE MONGERS – PUBLIC COMMENT
Not one person objected to statement # 6 while it remained on the board for the entire 5 hour meeting.
Directly relating to Ordinance 613 is Resolution 1006: A RESOLUTION ADOPTING EXPECTATIONS TO CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT CONDUCIVE TO THE CIVIL CONDUCT OF THE PUBLIC’S BUSINESS IN POLSON CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS.
This resolution needs to be examined and will be addressed in a future post