You have to wonder whether government officials have reached
the conclusion that the public really doesn’t matter anymore.
They have huge staffs at their disposal including batteries
of lawyers, unlimited amounts of taxpayer dollars and special interest cash and
teams of political consultants and advisers who practice the art of deceit,
deflection and denial as they create public stories that have nothing to do
with what is going on behind the scenes in back rooms.
Last Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors considered all
but eliminating public comment by limiting speakers to three minutes to share
their views on the entire agenda that can reach 60 items as it did that day.
They probably would have acted and approved the
unconstitutional limitation except that “respectable” people like the League of
Women Voters – not just the gadflies and rabble – objected, causing the
supervisors to take another look.
Now, Glendale officials are looking at barring the entire
city staff from talking to “known crooks” when they are the clock doing their
The reason is gadfly Barry Allen was exposed for having been
convicted of running a counterfeiting ring in the 1980s when he was known as Allen
Barry Silbarman – a case of the watchdog being bitten by other citizen watchdogs.
The revelation prompted Councilman Ara Najarian to get the
City Attorney to draft a report on whether “there was a way to bar officials
from talking to Allen, his Vanguardian group, or others connected to criminal
activities,” according to Glendale News-Press reporter Brittany Levine.
“A few weeks ago I sarcastically congratulated some of our
department heads and a captain of our police force for attending and hosting or
being the keynote speaker at one of Barry Allen’s forums,” Najarian said. “I
find that to be a huge problem and at this point forward a dereliction of the
duty of the City Council to have this continue.”
That view doesn’t sit well with people who still think the
First Amendment means something despite so much evidence that would call it
into the question.
“Translating the desire to avoid talking to ‘known crooks’
into viable, constitutionally sound policy is probably impossible,” said Terry
Francke, general counsel of Californians Aware, an open government advocacy
“Most people would probably agree that the government’s biggest problems do not
trace to ‘known’ crooks, but to those unknown, both outside and inside city
Now that is a quote that ought to be chiseled into the front
of city halls everywhere, especially L.A. City Hall where lip service is paid
to the First Amendment even as every means available is used to squelch it,
especially in the way gadflies are treated like they are criminals.
The Occupy L.A. protesters were told over and over how much
the mayor and Council respected their rights to free speech and to seek redress
for their grievances, even promising them to stay at City Hall as long as they
But when public opinion turned against the encampment, the
mayor ordered a massive show of force in evicting them and maximum use of
intimidation techniques in the name of “constitutional policing,” things like
leaving them standing handcuffed for seven hours, crammed for three days into
overcrowded cells, setting bail at $5,000 and then barring them from City Hall
as a condition of their release.
I attended the Occupy the Hood general assembly meeting
Saturday night on the lower steps on the West Side of City Hall.
Crime scene tape at the foot of the upper steps kept
participants from going any higher and three cops stood at the top of those
stairs watching a peaceful celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. and his commitment to non-violence.
There was no reason for the cops to be there looking down
from on high except to chill people’s exercise of their rights to speak and
With the sophisticated technology now available in every police
car, cameras on every street and courts that have undermined our constitutional
protections, we need to take a look at where this is headed and to ask ourselves
whether the price we are paying for “security” is worth it.
Tonight at 6:30 p.m., the Police Commission is holding a “special” meeting in the San Fernando Valley at St. Nicholas Church, 9501 Balboa Blvd. in Northridge for no apparent reason if you read the agenda containing a short list of routine matters.
The reason is Chief Charlie Beck’s incredible decision to stop impounding cars of unlicensed, unregistered, uninsured drivers because it is now politically correct to solve the problem of the nation’s lack of an immigration policy and the state’s refusal to allow licenses for illegal immigrants by allowing them to continue to operate vehicles even when stopped for a traffic infraction.
Only Commissioner Alan Skobin has objected to Beck’s rolling over to the mayor and other politicians on this without regard to the public safety, without even attempting to offer a public safety rational, without conducting any kind of study to determine how many fatal accidents, how many hit-and-run accidents involved unlicensed drivers, without allowing the commission and the Council to review his decision by calling it a change in procedure, not policy.