Why vote against public participation?

August 30, 2014
Kevin Rice

Kevin Rice

OPINION By KEVIN RICE

Why did Assembly Member Katcho Achadjian vote against citizen speech at public meetings? On Wednesday, AB 194 (Nora Campos, D-San Jose) cleared both State Congress houses and now moves toward Governor Brown’s desk, but not with support from Katcho.

AB 194 amends the Brown Act to end several long-standing abuses and denials of citizens’ right to be heard by local elected officials. Of local significance, AB 194 ends the practice of requiring members of the public to sign up to speak prior to the start of a meeting or agenda item. This practice has been used by our San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors to limit public input and criticism.

Another common local practice ended by AB 194 requires citizens to speak at the beginning of a meeting or prior to presentations by staff, preventing comment after specifics are made public.

AB 194 explicitly permits criticism of public employees and how they do their jobs. Despite two federal court rulings upholding the First Amendment, many local agencies continue to prohibit criticism of their employees (while welcoming praise). Viewpoint discrimination—denying or limiting comment based upon disapproval of the speaker’s views—is prohibited. And, AB 194 protects citizens from having their speaking time reduced by interruptions from the governing body chair, or for time spent translating comments into English (for non-English speakers).

What was Katcho thinking in voting against AB 194? Call Governor Brown and ask him to sign AB 194 into law. AB 194 is supported by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the ACLU and Californians Aware.


Loading...
achillesheal

We live in very sensitive times,so I understand why criticism of govt officials should be outlawed. We should be able to bring back tarring bad feathering of said officials- as long as it can be done without hurting their feelings.


Kevin Rice

Mr. Rice,


Thank you for calling yesterday in regards to Assemblyman Achadjian’s vote on AB 194. Prior to casting his vote on AB 194, the Assemblyman heard from some of the largest counties that were opposed to the bill. They were concerned about the bill’s implementation, specifically related to parts of the bill that would inhibit the City, County, etc., to maintain structure in their meetings. AB 194, in the form that the Assemblyman voted on it earlier this week, would allow an individual to speak on multiple subjects or items without giving notice beforehand and could hinder another person’s ability to speak at the meeting due to time constraints. While Assemblyman Achadjian was unable to support AB 194 because of some of the language in the bill, he cares a great deal about transparency in government.


I hope this helps, and please feel free to call or email with additional questions or concerns.


Thanks.


Tiffany Zurilgen Ryan

Legislative Director

Office of Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian


Kevin Rice

Thank you, Tiffany, for the research and reply.


Unfortunately—and especially as a citizen subject to the whims of board presidents—I find the Assemblyman’s rationale lacking and under-informed. While AB 194 is under the bridge at this point and on the Governor’s desk, AB 194 in no way hinders a legislative body from managing time constraints. Limits on time alloted to each speaker, or total time for an item, are not changed by AB 194.


AB 194 legislative bodies from requiring that persons sign a speaker card in advance. SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson has abused this on occasion, requiring people to sign up in the morning in order to speak hours later in the day!


In no way does AB 194 “hinder another person’s ability to speak” at a meeting. THAT, is solely up to the board president—whether to set time limits or not. AB 194 does exactly the opposite: It requires legislative bodies to LET PEOPLE SPEAK (outside of the unchanged time limit constraints) by not allowing requirements to sign a speaker card in advance.


It appears some of the “largest counties” (who does Katcho represent, by the way?) dislike public comment. It is very rare in SLO county that time limits are set (other than Supervisor Bruce Gibson, and a very few extremely controversial issues). However, there are agencies in SLO county that have abused discretion to require speaker slips hours in advance of public comment. Additionally, some agencies require the public to speak PRIOR to hearing staff reports, thus locking the public out of being able to comment on the staff report.


Thank you again.

Kevin Rice


OnTheOtherHand

I am pleasantly surprised to see Kevin Rice supporting a bill put forth by a member of the “enemy” party. While I am not surprised at his agreement with the bill, I would have guessed that his history of partisan positions here would keep him from publicly supporting something proposed by a Democrat no matter how good it is.


Am I being too cynical in suggesting that maybe that is why Katcho didn’t support it?


Perspicacious

You don’t know Kevin then. He doesn’t subscribe to either party. Never has as far as I know. He is a Constitutional advocate and the Constitution doesn’t care about party lines. As to why Katcho didn’t support it, I will ask him next time I see him. I hope it was some fine print in the bill that bothered him and not as you suggest, partisan politics.


Kevin Rice

He was apparently concerned with opposition from the “largest counties”.


achillesheal

Drip, drip drip…that’s the daily erosion of our freedom and government accountability to thos whom it is supposed to serve.


Perspicacious

While we are at it, why is he NOT on the list of assembly members opposed to SB53? Thanks for nothing Katcho. if this bill is passed and signed by the governor we will no longer have Second Amendment rights in this state as it will be next to impossible to get ammunition.


Perspicacious

Well, at least he voted against it this morning and it did not pass. I just wish he would have been a more vocal opponent. I’ll let him off the hook this time.


Julie

Thanks Kevin Rice for putting pen to paper to get the word out!


Assemblyman Achadjian, what were you thinking?


It is the people who put you (and your colleagues) in your seat; now sit there and listen to them!


SloTownMan

If the liberal newspapers and ACLU is for it….. !!!!!!


bobfromsanluis

Yeah, those pesky newspapers and their damn “facts”; that darn ACLU and the insistence that the Constitution be followed, even if the results are “uncomfortable” for some …


Would I be correct then SloTownMan, that would prefer that our elected officials be able to conduct public meetings in any way they seem fit, cutting off public input and behaving like they are somehow “above us” peons? I for one prefer that our public officials defer to us, the citizens that elect them, the voters they are supposed to serve. If a new tweak of the Brown Act makes our public officials more responsive to the voters, I really cannot see a down side to it.


bobfromsanluis

I really wish there was an edit feature: “that You would prefer that …


Dan Carp

Many of my colleagues in elected positions disregard the value of public comment……..it’s an obstacle to their self-serving agendas.


Perspicacious

I wonder if your “thumbs down” votes are from your colleagues.


OnTheOtherHand

Come on Dan, they value publlic comments — as long as they are from people with a history of making campaign donations or an inclination to support the positions they hold.


Dan Carp

Extensive public engagement is essential if we really are serving our constituents. I get stopped multiple times everyday on the street and wouldn’t have it any other way……..much rather listen to the public than my colleagues exhaustive bloviating.


SloHeadInTheSand

We all should take up a collection to get Nora Campos, the author of AB 194, to move here and run against Gibson!


LameCommenter

Nice thought, very good, but unfortunately the brain-dead or disconnected or busy-with-their-own-life electorate would restore the likes of Gibson, Irons, Marx and so forth.


But I like your thinking.