UPDATED EDITOR’S NOTE: Faced with widespread protests from “reasonable” and “thoughtful” people like the League of Women Voters, Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky backed down at least temporarily on limiting the public to just three minutes total to comment of the dozens of items on the Board of Supervisors agendas, referring the issue back to County Counsel Andrea Ordin. In this open letter, Hollywood activist Bob Blue — who may or may not meet the supervisors standard of being a “reasonable” person — makes a clear and compelling case that the County Board of Supervisors are acting illegally in all but eliminating the public’s right to speak if they adopt this measure at today’s meeting. It would limit the public to three minutes of comment on the board’s entire agenda which shows just how little respect they have for what people think and why voters should throw professional politicians out of office.
Honorable Supervisor and Chair Zev
821 Kenneth Hahn Hall of
500 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Sent Via Email
Subject: Objections to the January
10, 2012 Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Meeting, Agenda Item 12,
“Recommendation as submitted by Supervisor Yaroslavsky: Approve revisions to
the Rules of the Board relating to the following Sections to improve the way
Board meetings are conducted”
Link to Agenda Item Motion: http://file.lacounty.gov/bos/supdocs/65850.pdf
Brown Act / Open Meetings Laws
Honorable Supervisor and Chair Zev Yaroslavsky:
I am formally submitting my objections to the proposed changes to the
“Rules of the Board of Supervisors” as proposed by your motion under
Agenda Item 12 for the January 10, 2012 meeting of the Los Angeles County Board
Please note that my objections were
submitted before the start of the January 10, 2012 meeting of the Los Angeles
County Board of Supervisors.
We should be encouraging more public
participation and openness in our local government, not less. This will be a
benefit to both the Board of Supervisors and the public and as elected officials;
you should hear public comments to their fullest extent. You be should open to
scrutiny, it encourages refinement, improvement, and a cleaner government.
Below are my objections:
1. Objection to requiring member of
the public to give their names and addresses as a condition of addressing
the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors:
Section 39. ADDRESSING THE BOARD.
a. No person shall address the Board
until he/she has first been recognized by the Mayor/Chair. The decision of the
Mayor/Chair to recognize or not recognize a person may be changed by order of
the Board. All persons addressing the Board shall give their names and
addresses for the purpose of the record. All persons addressing the
Board should avoid personal attacks, inflammatory language, and derogatory
references to race, ethnicity or religion. The Mayor/Chair may, in the interest
of facilitating the business of the Board, limit the amount of time which a
person may use in addressing the Board.
[Sentence above underlined for
emphasis and was not underlined in the original document]
The sentence above that is in bold
and underlined, “All persons addressing the Board shall give their names and
addresses for the purpose of the record.” should be deleted.
Persons addressing the board cannot
be required to give their names and addresses. Currently the use of the word
“shall” makes this a conditional requirement of the public and is a violation
of the Brown Act. Members of the public are not required to give their names
and addresses in order to speak in front of a legislative body in California.
[Under the Brown Act, a
member of the public can attend a meeting of a legislative body without having
to register or give other information as a condition of attendance. (§ 54953.3;
see also 27 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 123 (1956).) If a register, questionnaire or
similar document is posted or circulated at a meeting, it must clearly state
that completion of the document is voluntary and not a precondition for
attendance. (§ 54953.3.)] – Page 27 of the 2003 CA Attorney General Brown Act
2. Objection to limiting and
restricting the amount of time that members of the public can speak on multiple
items – This is not reasonable.
Section 37. REQUESTS TO ADDRESS THE
BOARD ON AN AGENDA ITEM. A person
requesting to address the Board on an agenda item(s) will be allowed a
total of three (3) minutes per meeting. When a person has signed up to speak
on multiple agenda items, the Mayor/Chair has the discretion to ask that the
person address all of their items at one time and stay within the three (3)
minute time limit. Further, the Mayor/Chair may, in the interest of
facilitating the business of the Board, further limit or increase the amount of
time which a person may use in addressing the Board. For instance, setting
stricter time limits might be necessary in order to allow every member of the
public who wishes to address the Board to do so within a total allotted time,
or in order to complete a meeting with a lengthy agenda within a reasonable
period of time. Requests to be heard must be submitted to the Executive
Officer-Clerk of the Board before the item is called. Any individual found to
have engaged in disruptive conduct, as defined in section 10 of these Rules,
may be prohibited from addressing the Board at future meetings as set forth in
section 10 (e).
Setting a 3 minute time limit on
multiple items clearly restricts members of the public’s ability to reasonable
address the legislative body. For example, that would limit the time to 18
seconds per item if a member of the public wanted to speak on 10 agenda items.
This clearly forecloses meaningful public dialogue.
[The Act provides that
the legislative body shall not prohibit a member of the public from criticizing
the policies, procedures, programs, or services of the agency, or of the acts
or omissions of the legislative body. (§ 54954.3(c).) Public meetings of
governmental bodies have been found to be limited public fora. As such, members
of the public have broad constitutional rights to comment on any subject
relating to the business of the governmental body. Any attempt to restrict the
content of such speech must be narrowly tailored to effectuate a compelling
state interest. Specifically, the courts found that policies that prohibited
members of the public from criticizing school district employees were
unconstitutional. (Leventhal v. Vista Unified School Dist. (1997) 973 F.Supp.
951; Baca v. Moreno Valley Unified School Dist. (1996) 936 F.Supp. 719.) These
decisions found that prohibiting critical comments was a form of viewpoint
discrimination, and that such a prohibition promoted discussion artificially
geared toward praising (and maintaining) the status quo, thereby foreclosing
meaningful public dialogue.] – Page 28 of the 2003 CA Attorney General Brown
Link to the 2003 CA Attorney General
Brown Act Booklet: http://caag.state.ca.us/publications/2003_Main_BrownAct.pdf
Robert (Bob) Blue
Los Angeles, CA.