The ongoing efforts to silence citizen opposition to extending Portland, Oregon’s Loot Rail into Vancouver, Washington, part of an overly expensive planned project to replace the aging I-5 bridge between the 2 states, is being elevated to a new level, publicly berating citizen’s who exercise their first amendment rights to speak out in opposition.
Saturday’s Columbian contains a front page article, Mayor Leavitt ready to cut open mic at city council meetings featuring the names and photographs of those who have spoken out in opposition to Loot Rail and Tolls at past meetings, including how often they speak.
Previously mentioned HERE, the effort now seems centered around a plan to continue rewriting Guidelines for Citizen Communications, that has been “under review” for several months now and modify or do away with the portion still published that says, “Citizens Communications is the place on the agenda when the public is invited to speak for approximately three minutes about an issue of concern or interest not already scheduled for public hearing during the meeting, or otherwise addressed on the agenda.”
Mayor Leavitt now proposes to “limit citizen comment during the televised meetings to topics on that night’s agenda only,” clearly a change from what is published currently. Instead, we read that Leavitt desires to change to “Those who want to speak about nonagenda topics would be given the opportunity to do so during a once-a-month town hall to be held after a city council meeting is over, he said. And that would be done with the CVTV cameras off.”
This change comes, due in part to a “friend” of the single mayor, Clark County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Tonya Rulli claiming that she “felt intimidated” after standing and speaking her own measured but confrontational comments against those who oppose Loot Rail at the February 7, 2011 Citizen Communication and again on February 28.
As she continued to delicately push her back out of her face, she appeared to be occasionally reading a prepared statement, labeled those who oppose the project liars and a minority while claiming she supports a majority. Left out of her “testimony” is a call for a vote of the people to express the “majority” view she claims.
Rulli is reported to have approached her “friend” Tim Leavitt after the meeting to say she “was stared down by Josephine Wentzel, spokeswoman for NoTolls.com” and that during her measured but confrontational “testimony,” she “heard snickers, grunts and other comments,” none of which are audible on the CVTV video.
Wentzel denies she was “starring down” Rulli, something I find completely plausible from knowing Josephine.
Another supporter of the project, Jim Mains claimed that a young friend of his was “quizzed” by Josephine after the Feb.7 council meeting that creates an “unwelcoming environment for newcomers.” Josephine has no idea of any such event.
As one who occasionally attends city council meetings and has only commented once, briefly, I have been angrily confronted, not quizzed after wards in the parking lot by those whose views differ from mine. I was even accused once of packing a gun by a Loot Rail supporter, although the clothes I had on last summer would not have blended well with concealing such a weapon.
Needless to say, I was not carrying any weapon; unless you consider the small pocket knife I’ve carried for several decades a weapon.
To say the least, I am very disappointed to read that council members Jack Burkman, Larry Smith and Pat Campbell voiced their support in this effort to shut down citizen opposition as I know at least 2 of them are U.S. Army Veterans, as am I. We wore the same uniform and swore an oath that in part says, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”
Before being seated in their elected office, each took an oath saying, “I solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the constitution and will obey the laws of the United States and of the State of Washington, that I will, in all respects, observe the provisions of the charter and ordinances of the City of Vancouver, and will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of.”
As a refresher, the very first amendment to our constitution clearly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Council member Jeanne Stewart seems to have a clear understanding as she states of the proposal, “That’s the convenient thing to do if you don’t want other people to know what people are talking about.” Further addressing the issue, she states that people tell her they find the city council hostile, not the crowd, no doubt recalling the now famous “gavel down” incident involving fellow council member Jeanne Harris.
Our youngest and newest council member, Bart Hansen, who I have scolded in the past for what appeared to be a lack of full understanding of free speech and free expression, seems to be maturing in his understanding as he states, “the mayor may be creating a problem to try and fix a problem,” adding, “If you turn the camera off on one person, you turn the camera off on everybody.”
I would hope that the 2 Army Veterans sitting on the council would recall why we served and what we fought for while in the Army.
As we set about instituting a yearly program to Honor Young Enlistees into the Military, will we be telling them how much we honor and appreciate their service, but when they return, shut-up unless they speak what we wish to hear?
As was recently seen at George Washington University, during a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemning the mistreatment of protesters in the middle east, as 71 year-old Ray McGovern, an outspoken critic of the current war standing silently with his back turned to Secretary Clinton was brutally removed, will Leavitt one day resort to something similar to silence opposition to Loot Rail?
I would like to say no, but given Leavitt’s efforts to date, I cannot.