The local “newspaper of record,” the Columbian, or as this blog has long referred to them, the Lazy C for their lack of interest in shining light on Democrats, posted a column today, Sunday May 1, 2016 decrying efforts by Port of Vancouver Commissioner Jerry Oliver to bypass public comments recently pertaining to the proposed Oil Terminal.
Oliver gave as his reason, “They don’t come down to talk. They come down to protest.”
This seems to have raised the ire of the Lazy C editorial staff that opposes the terminal as the state in their Sunday column, “Attempting to stifle public comment no way to mitigate oil terminal concerns.”
While I agree that public comment should not be stifled, I also can see Oliver’s point as several commenter’s show up to make speeches and see themselves recorded on television by CVTV.
It was just a few years ago, though that the editorial staff of the Lazy C seemed to hold a different view in regards to public comment before the Vancouver City Council pertaining to the now comatose Columbia River Crossing light rail project that the Lazy C strongly supported.
A February 9, 2011 article was published, Mayor Leavitt ready to cut open mic at city council meetings that ignited a firestorm with citizens because not only was there the report of the Mayor seeking to silence critics of the CRC, but the Lazy C felt the need to publish names and photographs of those citizens considered “most outspoken.”
Of the effort then, Mayor Leavitt claimed,
“it’s the actions — not the words — of CRC opponents that are bringing around the proposed changes.”
We were treated to specious claims of people “being stared down” and creating an “unwelcoming environment for newcomers,” previously covered by this blog here.
Mayor Leavitt was reported to have said,
“The point of me initiating a conversation about making some improvements is what we’re doing right now could be done better for both us and our citizens. People who want to come into council to watch and listen and voice opinions could do so without fear and harassment.”
This was occurring just months after the famous “Gavel Down” outburst between a citizen and former council member.
Mayor Leavitt did not fully succeed in stifling CRC critics comments then, but did manage to “modify” their ability to comment somewhat with a few changes to public commenting.
Of numerous articles published pertaining to Leavitt’s efforts, I saw none chastising him for “stifling” citizen comment. We were treated to an In Our View editorial on March 23, 2011 informing us of the “Reasonable Rules” instituted.
In that editorial we are told,
“The rules are necessary to allow a maximum number of citizens to speak in a limited amount of time. To set no restriction whatsoever on the length of a public meeting is simply not practical. To allow a citizen to speak virtually unendingly is unfair to others who are waiting to speak. And to allow people to speak biweekly on topics of their choice is reasonable” as well as “By the same token, those who speak most often at public meetings should remember the benefits of following the rules, or at least not straying too far from them.”
In a March 6, 2011 editorial by former Editorial Page Editor, bombastic John Laird asked, “Does the frequent repetition of a particular point nurture freedom or suppress it?”
Offering a two-part response he penned,
“First, when free speech is not exercised responsibly (by citizens or by politicians, who also are capable of misusing the public forum), fewer people choose to participate in public meetings. Who could blame them? If you’re worried about getting gaveled down, or having to wait on speakers who make the same point for the 17th time and can’t condense their point into three minutes, why bother showing up?”
“Second, when public meetings are allowed to become oratorical free-for-alls, fewer people run for public office. And who could blame them as well? Instead of serving the community, they wind up listening only to a select few. And then, all we have left are the same politicians and the same outspoken dozen. Is that the best we can do, as stewards of a full democracy?”
I find no efforts by the Lazy C to label Leavitt’s efforts back then as “stifling,” but if you will recall, when Senator Don Benton (R. 17) was hired as director of the County Department of the Environment, it was the Lazy C’s editor, Lou Brancaccio leading the charge calling upon citizens to attend County Council meetings and “speak out” against the hire.
We saw two successive and hours long meetings with numerous vitriolic citizen comments directed towards the hire.
An effort to “modify” citizen comments then by merely moving them to the end of the meeting was not well received by the Lazy C or listed as “reasonable” as when it was directed towards CRC critics.
Lest you believe Clark County is unique in having to deal with citizens attempting to hog the citizen comment, this past January saw Spokane City Council limits participation in weekly public forums.
What I do not see there is the Spokane media picking and choosing when to support or oppose citizen commenting based upon their editorial boards agenda.
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