They seem convinced that dealing with the public at their public meetings has become difficult and that new rules are required to keep the hoi polloi from making a mockery of civil government.
In truth, it’s City Council that needs to be regulated. But let’s back up here.
The current call for tighter decorum has its roots in the Feb. 16 council meeting, where local gadfly Seth Brigham got up to speak and stripped down to his boxers. His purpose in getting mostly naked was to protest a proposed nudity ordinance, but he also spoke to individual council members Suzy Ageton and George Karakehian, addressing concerns he had with them.
How did council members respond?
Ken Wilson diddled his microphone, drowning out Brigham’s words. Karakehian motioned to a cop and asked that Brigham be removed. Brigham’s mic was cut, and he was cuffed, hauled away and arrested on suspicion of obstruction and trespassing. The charges were ridiculous, of course, and less than 10 days later, they were dropped.
Stung by the public rebuke that followed Brigham’s arrested, and no doubt frustrated and embarrassed, City Council seems to be trying to come up with a set of rules that would enable them to arrest people for doing what Brigham did — and have the charges stick. Yes, they want to legalize their own actions and make illegal actions like Brigham’s.
“The way the rules are currently structured ... the only way the council would stop someone is if the behavior actually disrupted the meeting,” Tom Carr, the city’s new attorney, told the corporate media.
Do you mean to suggest, Mr. Carr, that City Council members currently cannot have someone arrested merely for being annoying, that a person must actually disrupt the proceedings to be cuffed and dragged away? Heavens! That’s just terrible!
The solution from the city’s perspective is clear. More laws. The more laws there are, the greater the chance that someone will break one of them, justifying an arrest. (Council surely has the perfect man for the job, as Carr is best known for controversies surrounding his terms as city attorney in Seattle, where he was said to be a fan of regulations.)
To that end, the city released last week a draft of proposed “decorum” rules intended, some council members claim, to enable them to have productive “business meetings,” while still taking public comment. The proposed regulations include bans against specific things that Brigham did, i.e., addressing individual council members and taking off one’s clothes, as well as other things, such as shouting, stomping one’s feet and jeering.
But wait! Wasn’t it City Council members who misbehaved at the Feb. 16 meeting? Ken “Diddle” Wilson and George “Book him!” Karakehian were more out of line than Brigham. Brigham’s only transgression was participating in the meeting in a way that irritated some on council. For the city to impose regulations on the public in the wake of that incident is like sending someone else to anger management therapy because you lost your temper.
So to help City Council out, here’s a list of proposed rules City Council members ought to consider imposing on themselves:
All newly elected council members must study the First Amendment before taking office.
Any council member who uses body parts, electronic devices or a combination thereof to block out words they don’t want to hear should be barred fromspeaking at council meetings for six months.
Any council member who has someone arrested on bogus charges must spend 24 hours locked down in Boulder County Jail—and foot the bill for county hospitality.
Any council member who gets on his or her high horse about the public interfering with public meetings must stay after the City Council meeting and write “I am a public servant” 1,000 times with a dry erase marker.
Since it’s unlikely that the city will pass these rules, however, I’ll suggest an alternative. Vote the offenders out of office when they come up for reelection.
We don’t need more regulations in Boulder. We need elected officials who have mastered themselves well enough to serve.