What Next at Council Meetings, Jack Booted Thugs?

by lewwaters

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.

8 Responses to “What Next at Council Meetings, Jack Booted Thugs?”

  1. thank you for the link to the meeting citizen comments. I attended the meeting in question. Clark County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Tonya Rulli explained she was from Portland, and recently moved to Clark County. She urged the Vancouver City Council to ignore citizen input, and said we trust you to see through the lies. There were no specifics on what the “lies” were. The promised vote on light rail in Clark county should be held before a final decision to include light rail on any replacement bridge. About 70% of voters rejected the last light rail ballot measure. Portland and the Vancouver City Council want to force a “locally preferred alternative” of light rail from Portland into Vancouver, without a vote. The truth is, there are no alternatives right now. A replacement I-5 bridge with light rail is the only alternative offered. What better way to discover what the locals truly prefer than to hold a vote with the pros and cons publicly discussed?

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  2. I was struck too by her comment on just how much she missed the MaxLine over there.

    The simple resolution to that would be to just move back to Portland and go to work there.

    No doubt she would be willing to pay the tolls too. As a “Senior Deputy Prosecutor,” she earns a minimum of $7,028 a month. Or, just over $84,000 a year minimum, with full benefits, last I heard, for her and her children.

    http://www.clark.wa.gov/hr/employee/exempt.html

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  3. City Councilor Jeanne Stewart brought up a good point at the meeting, the promised vote on light rail. It’s even noted at the CRC website. However, The CRC task force selected the
    “locally preferred alternative” without asking the locals if they prefered light rail on a bridge replacement.
    Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse?
    Below is info from the CRC website.
    For Project Consideration:
    The Columbia River Crossing Task Force presents these supplemental positions for consideration during the post-Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) phase of the project development process. The Columbia River Crossing Task Force supports the following in association with the CRC project:

    A public vote where applicable, regarding the funds required to implement the light rail line

    http://www.columbiarivercrossing.org/FileLibrary/MeetingMaterials/TaskForce/CRC%20TaskForceLPARecommendationResolution.pdf

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  4. You know, if you watch the VODPod video of Tim at Clark College, you see how he can sing and dance around an issue without seriously compromising a issue a concerned college student raised. (I want to make a further note that Tim is former college student and might be on the alumni association of clark college.)

    It bothers me that he feels that citizens do not have a right to communicate WITH their government over an issue. And I do further understand the councils point (remember Pat Campbells comment six or eight months ago to try and limit Portland’s community members from coming over and giving testimony?) Lew look through your archives, I believe you did comment on it. I have a suspicion that it was made before the David Madore incident.

    And I personally do feel that this situation is politically motivated to silence those who would disagree with this project. And to say its to because they need to cut cvtv staffing, is bunch of crock. If you read my last piece on the subject on other thread, there ARE ways to do it without having to record it with city employees.

    Why do I feel that this is going to get the same shrift and apathy from the locals just like every other subject, like the fire stations, police, fire department staff? I hope that the local people finally sick of this game are finally going to stand up and tell the local officials knock it off.

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  5. I don’t recall Pat wanting to limit Portland resident’s comments, but I’ll look back and see what I find

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  6. And one more comment in case the local city council members are reading this (I know Pat Campbell and Jack Burkman read this blog with frequent, metamucil regularity!)

    I may not agree with the comments made at the city council meetings and like Lew, I DO attend those meetings. I know there has been some people that have made some horrendous commentary. But as you choose to run to represent us as leaders and elders in our community, I tire of the circus atmosphere that you and the columbian are continually perpetuating. It is not just the frequent stories from the Richard Curtis mess to Jeanne Harris but it is with the continual embarrassment I feel every time I listen to a city council meetings and how some of our leaders communicate with us.

    And how this is being thrusted decision or idea to cut off our vocal ability to communicate with our community leaders by the mayor is way out of whack and looks and smells like political and opportune swipe back at critics? And the cutting off of Citizen communication in front of the Project Sponsors Council more than two years ago?

    This stuff has to stop.

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  7. I object to the practice of turning off the mike following the city’s business. Unless I have comments to make to the council, I seldom attend the council meetings. I do, however, watch CVTV every Monday night to watch the proceedings.
    I recently voiced my objection to Councilman Larry Smith that the meetings were not broadcast live. He informed me he was unaware of that fact. The following Monday night it was a live broadcast. That should be the case for all council meetings. Now they have gone back to not broadcasting live again.

    Live broadcasts takes the viewing public into the council chamber so that we may view the entire proceeding as it happens. Many citizens are physically unable to attend in person, so tv is their only opportunity to see our city government in action.
    Vancouver City Council Meetings should be broadcast live until the last person has spoken…..and that should be the mayor saying “This meeting is adjourned.”

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