San Luis Obispo County accused of attempting to restrict free speech

July 23, 2012

By KAREN VELIE

San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors are set to consider a draft ordinance on Tuesday that both conservative and liberal groups have dubbed an unconstitutional attempt by the county to squelch free speech and limit a person’s right to assemble.

“No person, group, or organization shall make use of County facilities or vacant land for public gatherings, meetings, conferences, rallies, assemblies or other similar purposes, without first having obtained a permit therefore and at rates established in the fee schedule adopted by the Board of Supervisors,” the draft ordinance says. “The provisions of this section shall not apply to meetings of public agencies and officials or County employees in the performance of the duties of their office or employment.”

Jim Griffen, a member of Occupy San Luis Obispo, contends this ordinance is but another example of the chipping away of the rights and freedoms of Americans under the guise of homeland security.

“The upcoming vote by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on an ordinance to ban the practice of normal civil liberties on county ‘property’ is a slap in the face to all those who value freedom of expression and democratic rights,” Griffen said.  “All progressive and liberties conscious people, movements and organizations must ban together to fight and defeat this attack on the Constitutional rights of all of us — in the courts, in the halls of government and in the streets.”

Failure to abide by the proposed ordinance is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the San Luis Obispo County Jail for not more than six months, or by a fine of not more than $500 or by both.

In addition, the proposed ordinance would ban people from distributing handbills that solicit donations at county facilities or vacant land.

“No person shall distribute, circulate, give away, throw, or deposit on the ground, post or affix to any tree, fence, or structure situated at any County facility or on vacant land, any handbills, circulars, pamphlets, papers, notices, or advertisements, which material calls the public attention in any way to any article or service for sale or hire, nor shall any person solicit or collect donations of money or other goods from the public at any County facility or on vacant land, without a permit issued by the Director or designee,” the ordinance says.

The Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB) has serious concerns about the constitutionality of the ordinance, said Mike Brown, COLAB’s governmental affairs director.

“Does this mean that the North County Patriots Tea Party cannot solicit donations at a rally on the Courthouse lawn without a permit issued by the General Services Director? How about  the Board of Realtors, the San Luis Obispo Cattle Women’s Art Show, the NAACP, the Navy League, or CAL Poly ROTC, etc.? What if the matter is urgent, sudden, and compelling? What if there is not time to get a permit? What if the General Services Director and CAO don’t like the organization or their flyer?, “ Brown said in a COLAB weekly update.

On Tuesday, the proposed ordinance is the first item on the agenda to be discussed at the 9 a.m. SLO County Board of Supervisors’ meeting.


51 Comments

  1. SanSimeonSam says:

    I respect Frank Meecham but the others on the board are pathetic little men who are getting some thrill in exercising dictatorial powers over a populace that continues to allow it by re-electing them to office. It does no good to go in for public comment because they do not seek nor listen to the public. These pathetic little county tyrants are going after the first amendment to the constitution this time. Next they will take their private army (county sheriffs) and go after the 2nd amendment. If they get that one these pigs will have a field day stomping on our rights in order to carve a society in their own image.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 6

  2. HarryMalone says:

    SLO government…. (county and cities) A DICTATORSHIP?

    We will DICTATE when you can assemble for freedom of speech

    We will DICTATE where you can smoke a cigarette

    We will DICTATE if you can sleep in your vehicle

    We will DICTATE your right to speak at public mettings

    We will DICTATE the placement of your trash cans

    We will DICTATE that landlords are responsible for their tenants behavior

    We will DICTATE the salaries and compensation of government employees with no regard to the state of the economy

    We will DICTATE the quality of air you breath and the exorbitant local cost to achieve it

    We will DICTATE what is ‘prosecutable’ or not by the DA’s office

    We will DICTATE what you pay for water and sanitation districts with no bid contracts, no auditing, and with no board member accountability

    We will DICTATE under the ‘freedom of information act’ if you will actually receive any information at all

    We will DICTATE the interpretation of the ‘Brown Act” and manipulate it whenever need be

    We will DICTATE that if you do NOT abide by any of the above (and so much more) you could be fined or jailed or BOTH!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 32 Thumb down 7

    • doggin says:

      Dick taters arent they.
      Gotta love paradise. Wonder what Oprah was smokin that day?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5

    • Slowerfaster says:

      Dictators always LOSE .

      They often lose their heads prematurely.

      One can hope.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

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