Saturday, October 27, 2012

When Public Comment Goes Wrong

One thing often pointed out is that when you actually go to a City Council meeting, the experience is far more visceral than it is if you just watch at home. A recent example would be the meeting with various commissions and boards last Monday regarding our next two year budget. Barbara Leigh and I were the only civilian attendees at this meeting, and while I maintained my usual aplomb, Barbara got under the skin of Mayor Moran a bit. After her time at the podium was up she and Josh continued to go at it, mostly over some of the issues surrounding the ALF.

Josh, finally having heard enough from his equally talkative counterpart Barbara, reddened visibly and growled, "This is not a dialogue." And while it certainly had been a dialogue, and a long one that he himself had actively participated in, the menace in Moran's voice was unmistakeable. Josh was the boss, and he was going to make certain all of the commissioners and board members knew that. Besides, I am sure Josh believed that he was the voice of reason here, and he was hardly going to allow anyone to challenge this perception. 

Public Comment at City Council meetings is, of course, something required by the law. It is not always popular with elected officials, however. Particularly when they are forced to listen to things that they would prefer not to hear. And while the at times thin-skinned Mayor Moran does occasionally show his displeasure with certain of his critics, he has not yet resorted to the extreme measures taken by the Mayor of Riverside recently. Something that went much farther than Joe Mosca's infamous three minute cutoff button. Here is how the Los Angeles Times (click here) lays it all down:

Riverside council critic arrested, cuffed for speaking too long: A 60-year-old woman who is a frequent Riverside City Council critic ended up on the floor in handcuffs this week after tussling with a police officer who then handed her a criminal charge.

Her alleged crime? Disrupting a public meeting after speaking longer than her allotted three minutes. 

Karen Wright was blasting a proposed city contract for sludge waste removal at the council meeting Tuesday when the red lights blinked, signaling her time was up. Over the next 30 seconds, Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge tried to stop her four times before a city police officer approached her at the lectern and asked her to sit down.

"No, I'm not sitting down," Wright told the officer, an exchange captured on the city's video of council proceedings. "No, I am not stepping out."

It was unclear how she ended up on the floor, but the video shows the officer pulling her arm. Loveridge said police placed handcuffs on her, but quickly took them off after wright yelled that she was disabled.

You can access a Press Enterprise video of the arrest by clicking here. Let me warn you, it is strong content. A KCAL 9 report that incorporates some of the PE video footage can be found by clicking here.

What I find striking in these videos are the impassive faces of the Mayor and Council members while this unhappy scene is taking place. And while this Mayor Loveridge fellow later tried to distance himself from what must have become a political embarrassment for him, he obviously said or did nothing during the actual incident itself. I rather doubt that the Police action shown here could have taken place without his having agreed to it in advance.

Not every city has a blog, but fortunately Riverside does. And if you want the real down and dirty, in Riverside this is where you go. It is called Thirty Miles of Corruption (click here), and here is their account of the event:

It comes as a shock to TMC to see public speaking come to this.  Others are telling me that I’m just naive, “this is Riverside”..  Karen Wright, a 60 year old disabled public speaker icon, went over the three minute mark, approximately 16.8 seconds.  Returning to her seat, she was met with one of Ronnie’s Bouncer’s.  Midway from her seat, she was pushed by the officer.  When she arrived at her seat, she was getting some of her things, the officer inadvertently came from the right side, it appeared he wasn’t finished with her, and then grabbed her arm and took her down to the floor, then handcuffed.  Not one, not two but three RPD officers surrounded her when she was on the floor.  “Officer, you are making me naked.” she stated.  You might think this is Afghanistan or Iraq, unfortunately this is Riverside, specifically, regarding these state of affairs, unfortunately, I must say, the City of  Riverside.

The first quickly came out of nowhere, as she turned after finishing her point after the three minute mark, she was met with an officer, not regularly seen, who grabbed her and threw her to the floor as seen in the images.  While the council just sat there stonefaced, as good leaders do.  While one retired police officer, later stated to TMC who saw the video from home, “there was no reason for this officer to touch this person.”  So again, why would this Mayor, this Mayor known as Mayor Ron Loveridge allow this?  Later in City Council, Mayor Loveridge stated, “this is outrageous behavior”, when Councilman Chris Mac Arthur’s Council Aide, Chuck Condur, used a derrogatory finger symbol toward public speaker Dvonne Pitruzzello during council sessions.  Why didn’t the Mayor have the gumption to say the same?  Did he enjoy this?  Did he allow this for personal reasons against Wright, being approximately his last appearance as Mayor on the dais?  If there is a story let’s hear it, this is not the normal standard behavior of a RPD officer at City Council.  Give us your side anonymously at thirtymilescorruption@hotmail.com

During this disgusting act of force, Councilwoman Nancy Hart, Councilman Steve Adams (also a former police officer), and Councilman and Mayoral Candidate William “Rusty” Bailey left their council seats and exited the dais.  It appeared they themselve could not handle or stomach the scene.  But none of these great leaders said, enough! This has to stop!  A reflection of the leadership in Riverside.  Well anyway, this is what happens if you talk a good 25 seconds after the 3 minute mark.  You may find a couple of RPD on your back.  Being disabled that’s gotta hurt. After this disruption by Ronnie’s Bouncers, she was later taken outside, released and issued a citation for “disruption of a public event.”  The witnesses who were there were stating, “she was already returning to her seat!”  RPD Officer you shouldn’t have done it, you’ve watched over the security of Council meetings before.  This is behavior unlike you, were you briefed by Council, Mayor, City Execs, City Attorney or your superiors to do this, and target this specific public speaker?   
I don't see this kind of thing happening here anytime soon. But I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at how far things can go. Just so people know.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

48 comments:

  1. This is truly outragous by mayor and pd, must agree this had to be a set up before action.coming soon to SM city council meetings let's hope not!
    But wait......would have liked to see Stockley hand cuffed and roughed up.....

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    1. I think Josh wanted to run out onto the floor and give him a bro hug.

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    2. Did anybody time Stockly?
      I'd guess he was rambling for 6 or 7 minutes.

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    3. Stockley was doing PR work for the planned Prop 30 demonstration that was going to use SME students as props. I'm sure Josh was in on that.

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    4. Time Stockly on the playback (he spoke at public comment, so it'll be in the first hour of the Josh Moran Show), and then demand the same amount of time for all speakers.

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  2. Lets not leave the City of Glendora, California out of this offensive activity.

    City Council members have long used vulgar language towards speakers and finger hand gestures while a city council meeting is in progress. Douglas Tessitor and Gene Murabito have been seen in public and in city council meetings disrepecting residents who don't agree with there point of view, by either mocking them while they speak or afterwards while the council members have unlimited time to attack a speaker or speakers.

    And or these two offenders bring cronies to these meetings to speak past there 3 minutes to belittle any opposing views or speakers.

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    1. The only thing that that's a drag in city government are the residents.

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    2. I am sure there are Pocket Stalins on City Councils all over the SGV that agree with that.

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    3. The only thing wrong with public comment is the public.

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    4. Posting here is a form of public comment. Let's make you the poster child!

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  3. Actually it is not as uncommon as you might think. There have been several instances of elected officials having citizens removed from meetings and/or cited.

    Really a sad testament to the disconnect between our officials and the people they represent.

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  4. Could Josh be provoked into doing something like this?

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    1. Can dry kindling catch fire?

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    2. In a meeting setting where a lot of detailed thought is required the first sign of a user is irritability and a short temper.

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    3. True 9:41. And inappropriate emotionality.

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  5. The thing that gets me the most about this is that on our councils here in Sierra Madre, and no doubt on many other councils, there are always a few members and mayors who take way, way too long to make their remarks. If the 3 minute limit applied to Mayor Moran, he'd never be able to do it, just as was true with his mentor John Buchanan. How about everyone gets 4 minutes, representatives and mayors, and members of the public?

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    1. Josh is as big a windbag as Buchanan. Liars always need a lot more time to explain what they want. Which is why our City Council meetings go on all night. Josh has a lot of wants.

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    2. Time limits would certainly help.
      But they'd have to hire a consultant to figure out to speak for three minutes, get 1 minute to refute/restate, vote.
      I'm available for $50,000.

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    3. I have watched both Koerber and Capoccia try to move meetings along, graciously suggesting the next development, "How about the public?" or "Could we vote?", and Moran seems to go along with it sometimes, others, no. It's as though Moses was interrupted while announcing the news about the tablets.

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  6. That poor lady. The naked remark was no doubt that the officers were pulling on her shirt while handcuffing her or trying to life her and she felt the air on her skin. And she was clearly a person who could not move easily. How dare they grab her and throw her around like that. Especially since all that was needed was one of the officers to put his hands on her shoulders. Terrible training of those policemen.

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  7. Many of the elected officials in the San Gabriel Valley would prefer it if the public had no right to participate in the meetings held. Many have expressed an interest in ending the requirements of both the Brown Act and the Public Records Act, the two laws which offer a little protection for the public.

    I can't tell you how many times I have over heard officials express their disregard and contempt for the public they serve.

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  8. Generally the way to handle the 3-minute limit is to have a lineup of speakers that each take their 3 minutes to expand individually upon points presented by the first speaker. Typically done with the "consent" of City Councils, this is an accepted technique because it doesn't belabor points or become repetitive, and the "teams" are usually respected high-profile citizens or representatives of a particular constituent group.

    It doesn't really do any good to go on and on in a combative fashion, an individual "against the system". A good speaker can get their point across quickly and effectively as we've seen Heather Allen do. That's far more constructive and can start a dialogue whether the City Council likes it or not.

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    1. Heather Allen is very, very good.
      I have personally seen some of those council member gasp/gulp when they see Heather come into the council chambers, papers in hand, ready to attack them! It's a very good service Heather provides.

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    2. Josh fears Heather.

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  9. I much prefer the SGVCOG method of handling public comments which are embarrassing to them, they simply don't allow the member of the public to speak.

    This frees up their time so they don't have to worry about any "disruptions" and can focus on the important work before them.

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    1. Nick Conway used to make sure that there were no chairs available for the public.

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    2. Conway couldn't risk public input. One of our representatives might have woken up.

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    3. Nobody could wake up Mosca. He never showed up for the meetings. Probably why Nick liked him so much. Well, one of the reasons.

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    4. Conway was worried about public safety - if chairs had been available, the public may have been trampled when the politicos rushed to get in the buffet line.

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    5. A stampede at the wide sides corral.

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  10. nWow. Tortured for talking over the 3 minute limit. Welcome to the new America.

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  11. Can hardly wait to see Josh have Faye Angus wrestled to the ground. Imagine.

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    1. I think he's trying to get federal funding to erect stocks in Kersting Court.

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  12. San Bernadino County is hell on wheels regarding your 3 minute limit: you have a clock at the public speakers podium and it starts with the countdown when the chair recognizes you. Makes you focus, keeps the meeting moving and everyone gets to speak.

    Now, here in SM that might work, too, be at the podium both places. It is similar to the old truism: didn't have time to write a 10 page paper so I wrote a 20 page paper. When we had public meeting and needed to get comments into the public record so we could have legal reference to them if needed in the future, we carefully covered all angles of the topic and took turns being sure the material was presented.

    When an individual tackles this on their own the process seems to deteriorate into a mumble fest. People need to know what they want to say and have their stuff timed down to fit.

    Then if the precious few (Stockley the most obvious "freind of the council" go over a chorus of "your time is up..." could erupt or the next speaker could ask for the same conssideration. Then you can watch Josh stumble all over himself with excuses that he shouldn't have let it happen but "that is no excuse to let the next person go over (that is unless it is another buddy of mine, ha, ha, smirk, smirk) the alloted time."

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    1. I agree that people need to know what they want to say and how long they are talking.But it would probably encourage more of that behavior if the people on the dais would do the same.

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    2. Agreed. The constant sound of Josh Moran's voice is enough to make even the dogs howl.

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  13. fan of crawford manOctober 27, 2012 at 4:43 PM

    Off topic again, but here is a PDF of the Spire Law Group llp suit, still in the middle of it myself but, there are over 841 plaintiffs and when you start it, you can read the meat, then when the listing of where the plantiffs live peruse it or jump to page 141, line 842 and the few lines after are more meat, and I am flappergasted at the defendents Merscorp or Mers is def num 28, with a whole lot more all over the world, the person who posted it on the site, said it gets really good around page 360.

    There is now a big who haw about the CNBC story, I saw yesterday has been removed because apparently the children of the person from CNBC who posted the story have been murdered, the Krims by a nanny who flipped out for no reason.??? It is still on the a lot of other sites though.

    Here is the link it is a pdf file.. bon appetit!

    http://img41.imageshack.us/img41/5857/usaracketeeringonmortga.pdf

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  14. Make no mistake about it, you the citizen, is considered a nuisance by our public officials.

    A handbook on the Brown Act, prepared by a local dept of education General Counsel, spells out how school boards should deal with the public -

    "any type of conduct which is noisy, loud, disruptive, disturbing, or creates a health or safety risk to other members of the public would be considered disruptive and not protected free speech.." "When such conduct occurs, districts should contact local law enforcement to remove or arrest the offending member of the public."

    There you have it - whatever you do, don't speak loudly or in any manner which they might consider disturbing.

    I am no lawyer, but I have lots of them working for/with me, and this kind of nonsense is little more than an attempt at prior restraint of our free speech rights......and it is going on in most every local agency here in our area.

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  15. I think there is a direct corollary between bad Mayors and problems at public comment.

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  16. It seems to be easy to get confused about what being elected really means.
    Yes it's a responsibility and a burden, but it is not a recognition of some kind of superiority;
    nor is it an indication of inferiority if someone is not elected. In our last election both attitudes were too prevalent.

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    1. I think most people see the folks who got elected as the better individuals. But that said, that some view their winning a small town council race as the signature event of their lives is kind of pitiful if you think about it.

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  17. fan of crawford manOctober 27, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    page 320 is when it gets good or the torts are set forth, over 1800 defendants, and discovery for 2000 more.

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  18. Didn't the Pasadena City College Board of Trustees recently hold a public meeting where several members of the public were ejected and one or two were arrested?


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    1. PCC is falling to pieces and the students are angry. What better a solution for the school's administrators than to arrest the students?

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  19. PCC is not alone in their failures. Citrus is spending some 55,000,000.00 per year to graduate slightly over 1000 students. Of course, the Superintendent is being paid more than the Vice President of the United States....but it is all about the kids.

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    1. That is terrible news.
      Junior colleges provide an invaluable service, either as a bridge, or as a training arena.

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  20. In yesterday's LA Times there was an accounting of the 600 million delt to the Great Park in Irvine. Three quarters (as I remember) of the funds have already been spent for "consultants, legal fees, studies,and assorted other nonsensensical activities. In fact only 30 acres of the huge park have received a portion of the monies and the 600 million is now almost depleted. This is am example of the fleecing of cities by a well orchestrated group of corrupt City Managers, Councils, Deveopers, and those who feed on this publlic trust.

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