Let the People Speak First

1stamendmentUPDATED at the end of this post.

Recently, Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer has decided that he does not want to listen to the public first at the meetings of the city council. The problem, as he apparently sees it, is that the number of public speakers is causing the Council meetings to run late into the evening—sometimes the wee hours of the morning. We’re relatively certain that if the bulk of public comments were supportive of the Mayor and his fellow members in the majority he wouldn’t be concerned.

In fact, the amount of public comment before the council has been a direct result of the efforts of Righeimer and his sycophants Mensinger and Monahan (his M&M’s) to cram their ideological vision for the city down the throats of the residents of their 60 year old city. All one need do is watch a couple meetings to see that the public’s ire is directed towards Righeimer and his M&M’s.

Councilman Jim Righeimer - Costa Mesa, Photo: Chris Prevatt

Councilman Jim Righeimer – Costa Mesa, Photo: Chris Prevatt

Righiemer’s solution to this “problem” of his own creation is to limit public comment at the beginning of the meeting to ten randomly selected speakers, leaving the rest to wait until the end of the agenda, however late that time may arrive.

We’re not sure how many years the Council has heard public comments at the beginning of it’s meeting, but it has been this way for quite a while.The two largest cities in Orange County seem to be able to conduct the public’s business after hearing from their constituents. In Fact, all of Costa Mesa’s neighboring cities follow the same process. In many cases, public comments are set to occur after council presentations. In Newport Beach, they follow a novel approach splitting public comment to matters on the consent agenda, and then all others after the consent items have been completed.

Righeimer’s solution is clearly motivated by a desire to deter the public from speaking. By requiring the public to show up at the beginning of the meeting to complete a speaker card, but limiting the number of speakers at the first round of comments, he is making a reasonable calculation that sitting through several hours of a council meeting will be too much hassle for people who want to speak. He’s hoping that if not selected to speak in the first round, that the remaining speakers will leave before their opportunity to speak arrives.

Tonight the Costa Mesa City Council will discuss the policy, and determine if the majority supports the policy. We hope that one or more of Righeimer’s M&M’s will stand up for the public’s right to address their elected representatives at a reasonable time, and without unreasonable obstruction.

If allowing the public to speak early is good enough for the bulk of Orange County cities, that concept should be good enough for Costa Mesa.

SO HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED

Geoff West, publisher of The Bubbling Cauldron, reports that the council meeting ran until 1:18 pm and resulted in what he described as an assault “on both the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Civility.”

The meeting, which began promptly at 6:00, finally was adjourned at 1:18 a.m. this morning and, amazingly, there were still nearly two dozen people left in the chambers at that hour.

Ten speakers were given the opportunity to address the council on non-agenda items [in the first round of public comment]. The remainder were trailed to the end of the meeting, when seven more speakers who toughed it out stepped up to address the council. That turned out to be 1:00 a.m. this morning! We don’t have any idea how many other speakers had turned in cards to speak, but departed because of the late (early) hour. Righeimer, despite the request by one speaker, refused to say how many speaker cards he still held at that time.

West reports that in addition to the quashing of public comment, Mayor Righeimer managed to take the meeting, and his leadership thereof, to a new level of rudeness and incivility. It is best that you read his entire post regarding the meeting, there’s really no way to cut and paste his observations without essentially posting his entire report. Click HERE to read his post.

  1 comment for “Let the People Speak First

  1. junior
    December 3, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    “.. limit public comment at the beginning of the meeting to ten randomly selected speakers, leaving the rest to wait until the end of the agenda.”

    Are you saying that some public speakers are not allowed to speak until AFTER the council’s consideration of a particular agenda item? That would be contrary to the requirements of the Brown Act.

    From the BA – “The public must be allowed to speak on a specific item of business before or during the legislative body’s consideration of it.”

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