Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Ongoing Flap Over Citizen Communication in Vancouver, Washington

Regular attendees to Vancouver, Washington city council meetings are well aware of efforts by the council to control citizen communication at the meetings, brought to light last year with the now famous "Gavel Down" video of council member Jeanne Harris having a melt-down.

Recently, what with council tiring of hearing citizens speak in opposition of the boondoggle project of replacing the I-5 bridge and extending Portland, Oregon's financially failing 'Loot Rail' into Vancouver, mayor Tim Leavitt proposed "cutting off the mic" to citizen comments during the meeting and shuffling opposition off to a venue where their voices would receive little listeners.

Needless to say, the proposal was not well received by the public, even with Columbian Political Editor John Laird's feeble attempt to defend such an egregious attempt at silencing citizens.

February 28, 2011 saw an improved effort that is a bit more reasonable, but still limits access to the council on matters they do not wish to hear. Although I haven't seen the written proposal yet, I understand the newest proposal amounts to a weekly time before the meeting for people to comment on city business each week. That means if there is some thing on the agenda, you can comment at that time for that. Then twice a month, there can be a series of times for hearings that would require public comment there. There would be two 90 minute forums twice a month on council agenda nights (usually 1st and 3rd Mondays) that are usually much shorter than the other 2 meetings each month. After that, they would have a 30 minutes where council members and citizens mingle to "talk."

Local businessman David Madore, founder of NoTolls.com rose to express appreciation for a more reasoned proposal and to seek the council to continue openness with citizens. Unbelievably, council member Jeanne Harris, doing her best to sound contrite, lays the blame for her September meltdown and subsequent emails squarely on Mr. Madore.

CVTV footage, obtained pursuant to the Public Disclosure Act, in no way is intended by CVTV, the City of Vancouver, or Clark County to either promote or oppose any candidate for public office or any ballot proposition
I have not seen any emails but I have no doubt that Ms. Harris has received some emails expressing strong opposition to her conduct. If any contained actual threats, I condemn them and hope she turned them over to law enforcement. We do not oppose this boondoggle by physical threats of harm.

But, Ms. Harris, your conduct was well over the top and I'm sorry, but it is not going to go away by a simple request or taking the video off of the NoTolls website. It's on the internet and nothing disappears from the internet. Too many have seen it and shared it.

You have no one to blame but yourself for that. Yes, you lost your temper and acted boorishly and abusively and it was caught on camera. You can't take it back or hide it away. Anybody who acts similarly in public, before TV cameras, is recorded for all time doing so.

I find it remarkable that Jeanne Harris would sit there last evening and place blame for her conduct on another who was only exercising their first amendment freedom.

I was at the council meeting last evening and even made a short comment of my own in opposition to changes in citizen communication. In time I will return and if need be, once again speak in opposition to matters I feel are a detriment to our community.

1 comment:

streetsweeper said...

Right on target, Lew!