UPDATE 2: This malcriado piece of crap has now received a CF number. It is CF 16-1104-S1. Subscribe and track, friends.
UPDATE: Emily Alpert-Reyes and David Zahniser, following up on my work,1 have published an excellent article in the Times on this very matter.
Herb Wesson, our putatively esteemed City Council president, is infamous for his inability to maintain his dignity in the face of criticism. He’s arranged for the City Attorney to trump up charges against Wayne Spindler, the guy with the puppets. He’s tried to instigate violence to cause the ejection of Armando Herman, the guy who makes faces. Wesson has spent years now tweaking Council rules to thwart members of the public who hurt his delicate feelings during public comment. His minion Mitch Englander, of course, is no better. The two of them even tried to amend the LAMC last year to make it easier to have putatively disruptive commenters arrested, although that particular unconstitutional abortion seems to have withered and died.
So it was shocking but not surprising to find this steaming little heap of a motion in today’s transmission from the City Clerk, wherein Wesson, seconded by Englander and a bunch of other folks who failed civics class, seeks to amend Council rules to allow ever-lengthening penalties for people who have been ejected from public meetings for disruption. If someone’s ejected from one meeting they’re ejected from all meetings for that day. The next time they’re banned for three days, and so on. You can read the entire text after the break.
The problem is that this rule almost certainly violates the state constitution, which guarantees via the Brown Act the right to attend and comment at public meetings. One can’t really be deprived of constitutional rights without due process, so Herb Wesson’s unilateral decision that one is being disruptive at one meeting can’t sensibly be enough to get one banned from other meetings. If this rule goes into effect it’ll give Herb Wesson the unilateral power to ban commenters from meeting for six days.
Of course there’s no principled distinction between six days and two weeks, between two weeks and a month, between a month and a year, between a year and forever. Obviously Herb Wesson doesn’t have the unilateral power to ban someone from public meetings forever, so he can’t do it for six days either. The Brown Act explicitly gives legislative bodies the power to clear the room for disruption, so obviously also the power to eject disruptive individuals.2 But there’s no law that allows the City Council to bar people from attending a different meeting because they allegedly disrupted an earlier meeting.
The state constitution, on the other hand, explicitly gives them the right to attend the later meeting. Now, of course, I’m not a lawyer, and I’m just shooting off my mouth about this, but you’ll see, I am correct. Turn the page for a transcription of the motion.
Transcription of the motion:
I MOVE, pursuant to Rule 77, that the Council adopt the following changes to the Rules of the Los Angeles City Council .
Council Rule 7: Add the following as a separate paragraph to the end of Rule 7:
“A member of the public who disrupts and is removed from a Council or committee meeting shall be excluded from attending all Council and committee meetings for the remainder of that day. A member of the public who disrupts and is removed from a Council or committee meeting and who then disrupts and is removed from a Council or committee meeting on any of the next 3 business days shall be excluded from attending all Council and committee meetings for the remainder of that day and the following 3 business days. A member of the public excluded for the remainder of a day and the following 3 business days who then disrupts and is removed from a Council or committee meeting on any of the next 3 business days shall be excluded from attending all Council and committee meetings for the remainder of that day and the following 6 business days. A business day is every calendar day on which a Council and/or committee meeting is held.”
Council Rule 63: Add the following as a separate paragraph to the end of Rule 63:
“A member of the public who disrupts and is removed from a committee meeting shall be excluded from attending committee and/or Council meetings as provided in Rule 7.”
Also, here’s a copy of the present Council Rules, and you can see that Rule 7, the one that Herb Wesson is trying to amend, presently states:
7. General Public Comment
During each regular meeting, the Council shall provide a member of the public the opportunity to address the Council on any issue within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Council. This shall be referred to as “General Public Comment,” which generally shall be taken up at or near the beginning of each regular meeting. Unlike most governing bodies which meet once a week or less often, the Council has regular meetings three times each week which afford members of the public frequent opportunity to address the Council. Therefore, each speaker shall be limited to one minute of general public comment each regular meeting. The Council
shall not discuss or take action relative to any general public comment unless authorized by Section 54954.2(b) of the Government Code. The Council has determined that a cumulative total of ten minutes is a reasonable minimum amount of time for the General Public Comment segment of each regular meeting.
Agenda Item Public Comment
The Council shall provide an opportunity for the public to address the Council on each agenda item before or during Council’s consideration of the item, unless the opportunity for public comment on the item previously was provided by a Council Committee and the item has not changed substantially since that Committee’s consideration of the item. A member of the public wishing to speak on only one agenda item that is eligible for public comment shall be given an opportunity to speak for up to one minute when that item is considered by Council, or, at the discretion of the Presiding Officer, before consideration of the item.
A member of the public wishing to speak on more than one agenda item at a single meeting shall combine and present his or her comments addressing the agenda items at or near the beginning of the meeting during a segment called “Multiple Agenda Item Comment.” A member of the public speaking on more than one agenda item shall be allowed to speak for up to one minute per item up to a total of three minutes per meeting. This will be the only opportunity to speak, other than during General Public Comment, for those members of the public who have submitted speaker cards on more than one agenda item. The Council has determined that a cumulative total of 20 minutes is a reasonable minimum amount of time for the Multiple Agenda Item segment of each regular meeting. On each meeting agenda, the Clerk shall designate any agenda items that are linked by a common specific issue. The Presiding Officer may allow members of the public who submit speaker cards on linked agenda items to make their public comment when the items are considered by Council.
Image of Herb Wesson is ©2018 MichaelKohlhaas.Org. If you’re desperately seeking to grok its origin you could do worse than to peep at this lil Herb Wesson here.
- Just kidding, guys!
- At §54957.9, which states:
In the event that any meeting is willfully interrupted by a group or groups of persons so as to render the orderly conduct of such meeting unfeasible and order cannot be restored by the removal of individuals who are willfully interrupting the meeting, the members of the legislative body conducting the meeting may order the meeting room cleared and continue in session. Only matters appearing on the agenda may be considered in such a session. Representatives of the press or other news media, except those participating in the disturbance, shall be allowed to attend any session held pursuant to this section. Nothing in this section shall prohibit the legislative body from establishing a procedure for readmitting an individual or individuals not responsible for willfully disturbing the orderly conduct of the meeting.