Supervisors consider ordinance to jail their opponents

July 23, 2012

Stew Jenkins


Besides the obvious lack of wisdom inherent in criminalizing someone performing an emergency landing of their airplane or hot air balloon on county owned vacant land, if enacted the ordinance being considered by the Board of Supervisors as their first order of business Tuesday July 24th would infringe basic California Constitutional Rights, as well as U.S. Constitutional rights.

Article I, Sec. 2. (a) of the California Constitution says: Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press.

Article I, Sec. 3 of the California Constitution says: (a) The people have the right to instruct their representatives, petition government for redress of grievances, and assemble freely to consult for the common good.

(b)(1) The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny.

(b) (2) A statute … shall be … narrowly construed if it limits the right of access [and if] adopted after the effective date of this subdivision … shall be adopted with findings demonstrating the interest protected by the limitation and the need for protecting that interest.

The California right to “instruct” public officials is considerably more robust than the mere right to tamely “petition” guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. And in fact the right to instruct was taken out of the original draft of the First Amendment.

The California right to assemble “freely” is more robust than the federal right to “peaceably” assemble; and was in fact designed by the original framers of the California Constitution to protect the right of the people to conduct demonstrations on government land and in government buildings. Several of the framers of the California Constitution had been jailed and banished because they freely assembled before coming to California.

Readers will note that the rights to instruct, petition, and assemble are coupled in Article I, Section 3 (a) with the right of the people to have access to meetings of public bodies in Section 3 (b). And any ordinance limiting those rights must be strictly limited in effect by a court even if it were found to have some legal effect.

The proposed ordinance on Tuesday’s Board of Supervisor’s agenda, making it a misdemeanor in Section 2.11.062 to enter county vacant land and facilities, disturb someone’s use and enjoyment of county facilities, gather, meet, confer, rally or assemble (a word right in both Constitutions) at any county facility or land, display signs, or use any amplifier all violate Article I, Section 2 and 3 of the California Constitution. The ban on camping or staying overnight during such a demonstration or rally, or providing food for demonstrators also infringes these rights.

How the Supervisors would decide to combine these constitutional infringements of the rights of the people with provisions permitting dogs on a leash under six feet in length into the county government center or Board of Supervisors’ chambers begs a very big question. When did it become fashionable for the county to give more respect to a dog walking into the supervisor’s chambers than to citizens gathering to instruct, petition and speak to the county supervisors or other officials?

Stew Jenkins is a San Luis Obispo based attorney know for his civil rights cases.



  1. abigchocoholic says:

    Stew, what the heck are you talking about?

    You start off with a title that alleges an ordinance that can jail opponents, then you start the article itself off by stating a county ordinance criminalizes hot air balloon landings, then you jump to quoting sections of the CA constitution, then you jump to quoting sections of the county ordinance, then you state something about dogs on leashes under six feet are allowed in county supervisor chambers then you conclude it all means dogs have more rights than humans in the county.

    Is this what passes for coherent persuasive writing these days? Did they edit your article from something like 5 pages down to 1 page just cutting and pasting random paragraphs? Did your article snort some meth?

    I’ll tell you what, either your thoughts are scrambled or I have issues, because I didn’t understand anything you said.

    (7) 21 Total Votes - 14 up - 7 down
  2. cheseburger says:

    “When did it become fashionable for the county to give more respect to a dog walking into the supervisor’s chambers than to citizens gathering to instruct, petition and speak to the county supervisors or other officials?”

    1962-1972 as soon as Vietnam was over they had nothing else to do!

    (4) 14 Total Votes - 9 up - 5 down
  3. 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!

    (19) 33 Total Votes - 26 up - 7 down
  4. obispan says:

    “Supervisors to consider ordinance to jail their opponents”? What more do you need to know about this twisted extremist rationale? If the supervisors could jail their opponents I have been rotting there since the late 70’s.

    (3) 23 Total Votes - 13 up - 10 down
  5. obispan says:

    I would prefer if the county were to just enforce existing laws against camping, defecating, urinating, and drug use on the courthouse lawn. But as Mr. Jenkins subverts the law, just because he can, to “graffiti” our community for his amusement, we may have to accept this ordinance as necessary, however unfortunate. I’d like to see Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers, socialists, flat earthers, whoever, be able to squawk in front of the government center. I blame not the BOS but Stew Jenkins of depriving us of this freedom.

    (-13) 23 Total Votes - 5 up - 18 down

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