“First Amendment… more of a guideline…right?”
Tomorrow night (7/18/17) the Olympia City Council will have First Reading of a new section of the “Offenses Against Government” Ordinance (Chapter 9.08 of the Olympia Municipal Code) that will make it a misdemeanor to disturb, disrupt, or interfere with a city council meeting. It doesn’t define any of those terms leaving it wide open to charges being pressed anytime a council member squirms in their seat a bit because somebody is expressing dissent.
Where to begin?
- OPD – you think Chief Roberts wants his officers to make it a habit of arresting people on TV at City Council meetings? Seems like a national news story all wrapped up with a bow on it.
- Anything they’re going to cite as a reason why they need this is either already against the law, or something they signed on for when they ran for office. Making physical threats, intimidation, etc – those are all already against the law.
- Disrupting a public meeting as an expression of dissent should never be against the law – I know it’s a bummer sometimes, and it can get uncomfortable, but it’s your job.
- If we had a mayor who was more popular we wouldn’t even be talking about this. If our mayor didn’t publicly insult people, talk down to them, or look down on them, people wouldn’t be so angry and ready to lash out.
City Council – meet me at camera three… Hi there… Listen…This is your JOB. It’s what you signed up for when you threw your hat in the ring. If you don’t want to do it anymore, then resign or don’t run again. But you can’t suppress the voices of people who disagree with you or communicate in a way that makes you uncomfortable. Period. The Constitution says so. Also, there’s no faster way to escalate this than an ordinance like this one. Once again… you don’t want to talk to people, you don’t want to listen, you just want all those “others” to go away and leave you to your nice little town-building-happy-fun-time. Shutting people out never fixed anything and it’s not the kind of attitude about people that I want from my city council.
It’s not too late for you though. You can just take this terrible law and put it in the shredder and maybe next council meeting you come out from behind the dais and walk right up to one of those people who freak you out so much and extend a hand to them. Introduce yourself. Smile. Try to MEAN IT but fake it if you have to. That little act will get you way closer to what you want than a million ordinances ever will.