San Luis Obispo County accused of attempting to restrict free speech

July 23, 2012


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.

Jorge Estrada

I beleive that there should be a freeze on anything new when it come to regulations. The economy and scarce tax dollars do not afford more wasted governing expenses as well as the general public taking time off work for public hearings. How about some of that CHANGE, use good judgement, comply with our Bill of Rights and work to keep it that simple.


Agree there should be a freeze on new regulations. There are so many laws on the books that even attorneys can not keep them straight.

Mr. Holly

If this passes it should be named the ADAM HILL BILL.


More like the Hill-billy Bill, or Hill-Bully Bill.

Kevin Rice

I hope everyone will show up at 9 a.m. tomorrow and include the items in today’s opinion piece as their talking points:


Send emails objecting if you can not attend:

• District 1 Frank Mecham

• District 2 Bruce Gibson

• District 3 Adam Hill

• District 4 Paul Teixeira

• District 5 James Patterson

For the Administrative Staff, go here to live comments:


Does anyone else think that this may be an effort to stop demonstrations aimed at unpopular Supervisor behavior and decisions?

Would they potentially apply their ordinance if a group of came together and sat together at a Supervisors’ meeting and all spoke at public comment on the same subject? Would they potentially apply their ordinance if a group of people gathered just outside the room where the Supervisors were meeting to hand out leaflets?

These guys sound to me like they have been getting tips from Vladimir Putin


And, they will probably charge applicants for the pleasure of denying permits. County staff has too much power.


This is such a draconian move! One reason for a permit is to get money. (They will no doubt charge for it.) This is not only a way to discourage free speech but a money grab. And, expanding government at same time because a new position will probably be created. How will the permit issuer determine who should get a permit and who should not?

Also, this idea has to come from the County Administrative staff. The Board of Supervisor members are obedient to their masters (County staff), and do what they are told.


Dante, I agree with your first paragraph, but not the second.

There are many, many County Supervisorial brain farts that staff have to research and report on that never go anywhere–and staff, from the get-go, could have told them it never would go anywhere. This is especially true of the “newbie” supervisors who made outlandish promises during their election campaigns that they now have to figure out how to manifest.

It is not just the County supervisors, either. This phenomenon goes on in virtually all local area governments.

The amount of time and resources, especially employee time, is astonishing.

The staff of local area governments should publish a “Strange But True” column discussing some of the ideas that flatulate out of the supervisors/directors/council members’ ruminations and visions of grandeur.


Good points MaryMalone.


This county is slowly but surely spiraling out of control.


What is the County thinking? Is this on the 3 member’s menu before they lose their majority power? This on top of Adam Hill’s quest to stifle CCN by intimidating its advertisers. What have we become…..or would the BOS have us become? Is their even one Supervisor who would condemn the effort to stifle not only the public, but the media?


Sorry….”there” rather than “their.”


It is only a 3-member menu IF the other 2 do not vote for it. Let’s see the break down after the vote.


Who brought this ordinance draft forward? Who is behind it?


Check the County Administrative office. This will no doubt generate funds from people/groups applying for permit. Just because you pay for the permit and make a request does not mean the permit will be issued. Who will determine whether permits are issued? Based on what criteria? How many County bureaucrats does it take to accept application money, take the permit in, and play God in determining whether a group is worthy enough to be granted a permit?


November is not that far away. Many things can be changed by voting.


Not in the supes election. That bird flew in June.

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