Re: Clackamas County considers ban on signs, added restrictions
County Chair Lynn Peterson is, as usual, simply making things up.
Her ginned up concern about “heart-wrenching” examples of county residents not being able to speak when people from outside the county dominated a meeting” is baseless, laughable and hypocritical.
That’s the story here. Too bad the reporter doesn’t get it.
Instead Peterson can make up anything to advocate getting her way.
Where is the “heart wrenching” example of county residents not being able to speak? Get real.
It is Chair Peterson herself who invites testimony from outside the county. In the case Portlander (and fellow Metro Bike Committee member) Jonathan Nicholas Peterson not only invited him but gave him preferential “invited” status usually granted only to public officials, staff or experts.
Allowing him to avoiding waiting in line and speak ahead of the general public.
In that Vehicle Registration Fee hearing process Peterson also enabled “Portland” Bike group members to stuff the testimony comments with emails supporting the fee. Allowing Peterson to then claim that there was more county support for the fee because of emails from “county residents”.
Her claim of support was reported repeatedly without any validation of those emails.
In stark contrast there’s been no coverage of the November poll of county residents even though the reporters and editors were provided the entire poll and it’s methodology.
So here it is again.
Nov 22 poll Clackamas County residents.
Pay for part of Sellwood Bridge 76% NO
New car registration tax 84% NO
Milwaukie Light Rail 71% NO
Chair Peterson’s shady methods have become increasingly transparent. In the case of these new guidelines they are a non-remedy for the non-existent problem she fabricated.
Making things worse by making more things up Chair Peterson tries to make sense out of her own nonsense.
This latest stunt of hers flies in the face of every other government entity holding meetings in the region and state where no such “behavior guidelines” exist. The idea that her board needs these to make her meetings “friendly, safe and secure to all members of the community” is nothing but yet another whopper by a county commissioner out of control.
Commissioner Paul Savas is a welcomed addition to the board. He reasonably would support guidelines that limit the size of acceptable signs in the meeting room. But Peterson and the other commissioners while foolishly claiming any size “could be” disruptive, have no legitimate basis at all for a total ban.
Commissioner Lehan piles on with more nonsense making up a scenario where imaginary people behind a holder of “any sized” sign has their entire view of the proceedings blocked. Proof again that any stupid fabrication seems to be acceptable.
I’ve got two better ideas for the Chair and Board of Commissioners and there is no legitimate reason not to do both.
1. Spend the relative pittance and conduct a county wide poll of your own with straight up questions on your current agenda.
(Perhaps they already have and didn’t like the results?)
2. Refer to the ballot, by board resolution, both of the petitions being circulated and allow the two public votes in May. The inevitability of both signature efforts making the ballot makes refusal to do so a deliberate wasting of county resident’s time and efforts.
Wed, Jan 19, 2011 at 11:16 AM
Clackamas County considers ban on signs, added restrictions
New rules aim to make meetings ‘friendly to all’
By Raymond Rendleman
The Clackamas Review, Jan 19, 2011
Oregon City resident Karen Lee, 63, a member of Americans for Prosperity, displays a sign at a recent Clackamas County hearing on the vehicle registration fee for the Sellwood Bridge.
A local expert in constitutional law believes that Clackamas County will have to significantly alter its draft resolution that proposed banning signs, clapping and personal insults, while giving “authority to enforce reasonable restrictions” on the times the public would be allowed to speak, and on the use of video recording equipment.
The county can impose or maintain order to the extent that it interferes with the process, according to Jordan Schrader Ramis attorney Ed Trompke, author of “Oregon Constitution: An Owner’s Manual,” due to be published this year by the Oxford University Press.
“But an occasional outburst probably shouldn’t result in an extreme measure such as expulsion, especially if it is an emotional issue,” Trompke said. “They can be admonished and be told that if they don’t control themselves, they will be asked to leave.”
Draft rules stipulate that the county chair would be able to remove someone from the commission room who’s not complying with the rules. Local police intervened in a commission hearing last month after a Canby resident made personal remarks against commissioners.
County Chair Lynn Peterson said she was more concerned about “heart-wrenching” examples of county residents not being able to speak when people from outside the county dominated a meeting. She’d also like to see the rules edited to suggest “positive” behavior that would be posted in front of county meetings and understood as engagement guidelines.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure that these meetings will be friendly to all, and it’s not just about the board members; it’s about other members of the community feeling safe and secure,” Peterson said.
Commissioner Paul Savas said he’d support guidelines that limit the size of acceptable signs, but he urged the commission to avoid overreacting.
“I’m kind of concerned that this might rattle some cages and there might be some questions with the First Amendment,” Savas said, adding that he would instead encourage the public to make the signs suitable for all ages.
Peterson and other commissioners argued that signs of any size could be disruptive.
“Even if your sign is relatively small, it blocks the view of the people behind you,” said Commissioner Charlotte Lehan.
“Whether to allow signs is a difficult issue, because it is expression, but it can block the view of other members of the public, so the county will have to be judicious in protecting the rights of everyone,” Trompke said.
Savas said that he’s learned to be careful after seeing a backlash on past commissions.
“I’m not advocating that people come in here with profanity or that type of thing, and I don’t foresee that happening, but that could be challenged,” Savas said.
Any of the rules could be challenged, agreed county attorney Agnes Sowle, “so what we’re trying to do here is fashion these (rules) in a way that has been acceptable in the past.”
The county resolution would only provide non-binding standards for conduct, as opposed to an ordinance, which Sowle sees as equivalent to a law. The resolution wouldn’t be subject to the referendum or initiative process, and wouldn’t be enforceable by police or county courts.
Chapter 192 of Oregon state law restricts smoking at public meetings, for example, but leaves many other rules to local bodies. The Oregon Supreme Court has also historically interpreted freedoms more broadly than most other states.
“The commission has to look not only at the First Amendment right of the public to speak and seek regress of grievances, but also at the state’s right of free expression, which covers a lot more ground in allowing for what’s acceptable,” Trompke said. “The presiding officer’s going to need to balance that with the need to keep order in a meeting, but politics is often not pretty.”
Commissioners directed county staff to survey longstanding rules of other local bodies to determine what has been acceptable. Commissioner Jim Bernard suggested following Robert’s Rules of Order as a standard to justify banning signs, applause, booing and other types of interruptions from the audience.
“That’s a standard that’s been accepted throughout the world,” Bernard said.
No one has recently taken a county agency to court for alleged free speech violations, but the issue remains a hot-button one for the U.S. as a whole.
The Pennsylvania State Superior Court ruled in June that a woman should be spared charges of disorderly conduct for disrupting a 2008 Blawnox Council meeting, according to reports by the Aspinwall Herald. The ACLU then filed a complaint in federal court on her behalf, alleging that a number of the council’s practices and handling of residents at borough meetings violated civil rights.
“I just want to make sure that we’re not seen as being restrictive, and as a result we might excite those who might feel that we’re trying to censor them,” Savas said.
In the coming weeks, commissioners will continue to discuss the guidelines for conduct in county meetings.
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