Gibson strong arms public comment

July 29, 2013


We live in a country where free speech is coveted, but here in “San-Gibson-Obispo County” such freedoms are under fire.

In the wake of the untimely death of Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Paul Teixeira, Vice-Chair, District 2 Supervisor, Bruce Gibson, has stepped up. During his first three meetings Gibson has made comments that appear to be on the path to squelch public comment.

In the past Gibson has often offered advice to his colleagues, suggesting ways public comment could be curtailed. Most notably, this past February after taking a public beating for his long-term affair with his subordinate Legislative Assistant, Cherie Aispuro. Gibson told Supervisor Teixeira, “I think we need to discuss the length of public comment. I think we ought to have a conversation about what we consider relevant public comment … and a discussion about what we need to do about repetitious public comment.”

Teixeira’s response at the next week’s meeting was to ask the public to keep comments clean and respectful saying, “This is a family show.”

Chair Gibson is now requiring that speaker slips, not required by the Brown Act, be turned in to the clerk prior to opening the agenda item one wishes to speak to. While the Board’s written agenda states this procedure, historically it has been the prerogative of the chairman to be flexible, allowing those who arrive during a hearing item to submit a slip while the proceedings are under way, including public comment for items not on the agenda.

Gibson fails to recognize the benefit of allowing free speech is to hear differing points of view. As the “smartest man in the room” Gibson is not easily swayed; seldom considering his colleagues and/or the public’s points of view. To require these slips be turned in ahead of the agenda items consideration, possibly excluding those who may not be inspired to speak until staff presents or listening to other commenters before choosing to speak, also stifles the board’s ability to hear all views.

As an example, Gibson resisted hearing the PG&E Seismic Testing issue as long as he could; it wasn’t agendized until the public outcry reached a level of fervor that couldn’t be ignored. Once brought to an agenda, giving the public an opportunity to make their views known and after hours of testimony from 70-some speakers, it was Gibson who led the board into the slap in the face unanimous denial of the project by the California Coastal Commission.

Technology has advanced allowing the public to watch the board meetings on television, streaming video from home and office computers; while no longer available on KCBX AM Radio the audio is available by Wi-Fi on handheld devices. These technological advances give the public the ability to monitor the pace at which the supervisors meetings are progressing from the comfort of their home and/or remaining productive at work. County staff uses these means to monitor the meetings from their offices allowing them to work as long as possible before being summoned to the board chambers to present or answer questions.

Gibson’s inflexible approach, requiring speaker slips be submitted prior to the agenda item, will require the public to get to the meeting early, forcing people to take time off work to be at the meeting well in advance of their item being taken up by the board.

The speaker slip “Welcomes Your Comments” yet requests members of the public take off their hats, turn off cell phones, speak directly to the Chairman, prohibits slanderous, profane or personal remarks against any individual, print and sign ones name, note the agenda item, the issue and gives the option to leave ones email address and phone number. None of which is required by law or enforceable.

Gibson needs reminding, “A member of the public shall not be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a legislative body of a local agency, to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance. (Government Code 54593.3),” the speaker slip itself is not required by law; it is filled out by members of the public as a courtesy for the clerk to track comments for the meeting minutes only. To require its submittal prior to opening the agenda item may be a policy of the board, but certainly is discretionary and can be overruled by any board members seeking information from the public and should be, recognizing that it is the citizens who are there giving of their time to participate in the complex process that is government.

Gibson will have you believe that this is an effort to streamline the meeting by saving the board’s time. The amount of time saved is immeasurable by comparison to the amount of time it costs those willing to participate; time equals money.

This micromanaging of the agenda only does what Gibson really wants — discourages public comment.


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The citation of Government Code 54593.3 (do you mean 54953.3?) applies to ATTENDANCE, not PUBLIC COMMENT. The BOS does not require you to register to attend. No, you don’t need to sign anything to attend.

According to the League of California Cities handbook on the Brown Act, “Public speakers cannot be compelled to give their name and address as a condition of speaking. The clerk or presiding officer may request speakers to complete a speaker card or identify themselves for the record, but must respect the speaker’s desire for anonymity.” If you are shy, you could note on the speaker’s card that you don’t want your name spoken by the Chair, that should be respected, but it appears that you must give the clerk your information.

According to 54954.3 (b) and case law, “The legislative body has discretion to modify its regulations regarding time limits on public comment as necessary. For example, the time limit could be shortened to accommodate a lengthy agenda or lengthened to allow additional time for discussion on a complicated matter.” The Brown Act does not specify a time allowance for each speaker. That is up to the legislative body. The Act only says the public must be allowed to speak. It doesn’t say how many members of the public must be allowed, or set a minimum time limit. It sounds like your complaint may be against the BOS regulations that give the Chair discretion. If you don’t like giving the Chair discretion, get the BOS regulations changed.

Finally, it is the duty of the Chair to run a legal and efficient hearing. It is responsible for the Chair to respect the time of staff members and the cost to the public in keeping the hearings no longer than necessary regardless of the desire of some public members to have face time they can get nowhere else.

Well, I can see how a speaker slip that “prohibits slanderous, profane or personal remarks against any individual” could be a stumbling block or actually a real problem for some of the speakers….

If you don’t like the Brown Act, work to change it. Otherwise, the BOS does not have the right to censor speech.

In addition, if any of the supervisors (or their supporters, like you) don’t want to hear uncomfortable remarks about their behavior, then they should change their behavior.

It is not the messenger who is at fault here. It is those whose behavior is criticized by the public.

Hey Lynette. How ya doing. Speaker slips won’t stop anything. Once you’re up there pretty much anything can come out of a persons mouth, especially someone who has developed a sudden case of tourettes syndrome. Decorum is the word. I can say just about anything as long as I follow the rules of decorum, address my remarks or questions to the chair, stay on topic and keep it on SLO County Business. In the case of general public comments, one should stay off the subjects that are agendized for that day. It’s pretty simple. Repetitiveness is unavoidable. Now my personal peeve is when people are unprepared and spend half of there time trying to find the words that they should have at least written down. But what is even worse is when some is allowed to praise but others are not allowed to criticize. The following are guide lines set forth from the Office of the Attorney General When a member of the public testifies before a legislative body, the body may not prohibit the individual from criticizing the policies, procedures, programs or services of the agency or the acts or omissions of the legislative body. (§ 54954.3(c).) This provision does not confer on members of the public any privilege or protection not otherwise provided by law.

Public meetings of governmental bodies have been found to be limited public fora. As such, members of the public have broad constitutional rights to comment on any subject relating to the business of the governmental body. Any attempt to restrict the content of such speech must be narrowly tailored to effectuate a compelling state interest. Specifically, the courts found that policies that prohibited members of the public from criticizing school district employees were unconstitutional. (Leventhal v. Vista Unified School Dist. (1997) 973 F.Supp. 951; Baca v. Moreno Valley Unified School Dist. (1996) 936 F.Supp. 719.) These decisions found that prohibiting critical comments was a form of viewpoint discrimination, and that such a prohibition promoted discussion artificially geared toward praising (and maintaining) the status quo, thereby foreclosing meaningful public dialogue.

In 78 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 224, 230 (1995), this office opined that the body could prohibit a speaker from making comments that were outside the body’s jurisdiction. However, when applying this opinion, the body must take into account the court’s broad decisions as discussed above.

QUOTING INSIGHT: “Now my personal peeve is when people are unprepared and spend half of there time trying to find the words that they should have at least written down.”

Many people do not find public speaking easy. I agree with your opinion that it pays to be prepared for speaking in public. However, even with preparation, some people get so nervous they cannot easily speak the words they have practiced or written down, especially if it is the first time they spoke in a new arena.

We are getting EXACTLY what we deserve. Unless we find a valid means of raising this issue and inspiring more than just the loyal few CCN patrons we will continue to be treated as the ignorant fools that we are. No need for us to receive consideration. I would think that many of our ancestors are ashamed of us, and others would have done the same thing. So just shut up and bend over and take it.

No, we aren’t getting what we deserve.

We deserve to have the politicians we elect serve our best interests, and not use their position on the BOS as a handy way to attract floozies.

We also deserve the politicians we elect follow rules and regulations, especially those associated with their positions on the BOS.

It is the politicians who are failing us.

I bet if 20 people, during public comment, simply stated “The SLO County BOS is failing its constituents in their duties to serve constituents’ best interests…not their own best interests,” the BOS just might get the message.

Gibson needs to be replaced, why there has not been a recall is beyond me. We are suppose to be a democratic society, and he seems to forget that.

Let Caren Ray get together with Gibson and HIll and people will have hell to pay. I have spoken at AG city council meetings and Caren did not like what I said and at the end of the meeting she made sure to let me know she did not agree. She was pro tem at that time and so she got to close the meeting. My comments are what I think, and for her to tear me a new one was not professional at all.

We are a government of the people by the people, lets stand up and tell them what we think, without having to play their silly little games.

That’s very telling. What was the date. That is all available for review if you are not exaggerating or misrepresenting what happened, lets check it out

It’s simply Gibson’s way of ‘flushing the Brown Act’.

Gibson first, however, uses the Brown Act to wipe his kiester.

It takes one to know one.

What do they hate?

I’d have to guess it’s things like “accountability”, “transparency”, “responsibility”, etc.

Excellent piece–thank you. Gibson knows what is and is not allowed under the Brown Act. He is the first to accuse others of Brown Act violations when it serves his need–he does it all the time on the APCD Board. But he completely absolves himself of violations of the act. Witness how he avoided a quorum on the APCD Board by arranging for himself and others on the Board not to show up. He had to do that behind closed doors with several of the members. I’m pretty sure that violates the Brown Act because he essentially held a meeting in private.

His only answer to his critics is disdain, hostility and sticking out his weak, beard-enhanced chin.

What is it about free speech that progressives hate? and why?

Don’t worry free speech is hated by whomever is in power.

Why do you hate progressives and how long have you felt this way?

If people “hate progressives” it may be because so many of them are so disingenuous. Most intelligent, intellectually and morally honest, free people don’t consider FASCISM to be the path of FREEDOM, SELF-REALIZATION, nor EQUALITY. Yet fascism is what progressives often support, but they don’t call it “fascism”, they come up with other catchy phrases. As long as “progressives” entertain the notion of pretending to stand for one thing, but are really supporting something else (knowingly, or unknowingly), “progressives” will be disliked. And what’s to like, anyway? Look at world history – at what the “progressives” of Germany did for that country – they put in Hitler!!! It’s the “progressives” in other nations, and their faulty social engineering, that often ends up putting in dictators, greater class disparity, inhumane treatment of their fellow man. All because they’re so smug in their “progressiveness” that they disdain anything that would have them consider someone else.

Like so much that has to do with government and politics these days – titles are misleading, and are often the opposite of what’s really going on. The term “progressive” really has nothing to do with “progress”, but more with “regress”; it is a term drummed up by would-be tyrants to get support by ignorant sheeple who will follow anything that sounds good, even if it’s to their own detriment.

the “progressives” of Germany did for that country – they put in Hitler

a big simple lie, the industrialists of Europe (economic power) hired Hitler to take care of Stalin and stop the spread of revolt against “them” using a shell labor union filled with WW1 German intelligence officers because they don’t like unions(democracy) either.

While it may be easier to attack a perceived foe by attacking them in the context of their political group, race, or other group identity. However, using a broad brush to condemn all members of a group for the actions, which you feel objectionable, by some members of the group, is very frequently inaccurate….and it may be bigotry in some cases.

You mentioned Hitler in your post. Hitler was able to turn the German people against the Jews by using uniting the German people by creating inaccurate fears of the Jews and their behavior.

That is an extreme example of the damage that can be done by broad-brush accusations of others, but the degree of the offense does not always define the damage done.