Public speaking now encouraged in SLO County?

January 7, 2015
Frank Mecham

Frank Mecham

New chairman of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors Frank Mecham has made changes to board meetings, which include easing restrictions on public participation.

At the board’s first regular meeting of 2015, Mecham reorganized the seating alignment of his colleagues and changed a rule regarding public comment periods. He also opted to remove the presence of a sheriff’s deputy from the board chambers.

Previous chairman Bruce Gibson is now sitting in an outside seat, which is considered a less influential position. Supervisor Debbie Arnold is sitting between Mecham and Gibson.

New vice-chair Adam Hill is sitting on the other side of Mecham, with newly elected Supervisor Lynn Compton in the outside position next to Hill.

Unlike Gibson, Mecham indicated that, as chairman, he would encourage members of the audience to speak during public comment. Mecham rid a board policy implemented by Gibson that required those wishing to speak to show up early and turn in speaker cards prior to the beginning of the related item.

Many public speakers considered the placement of a sheriff’s deputy at the meetings as a way to intimidate those critical of the board. A few years ago, Hill, then chairman, called on the deputy to escort a speaker away from the microphone because of the topic she raised.

The policy of staffing a deputy at board meetings also came into existence while Gibson was chairman.

Mecham said the presence of a deputy at meetings was not necessary and was also costly. The county reportedly paid about $36 an hour to have deputies stand in the board chambers during meetings.


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19 Comments

  1. obispan says:

    $36/hr is low for even for wages and benefits and clearly does not include facilities, supervision, equipment including vehicle… When you pay $75/hr for a plumber that’s not all wages and benefits for the dude snaking your drain. ANY employee, public or private, bills out at 3-4 times take-home pay.

    (4) 12 Total Votes - 8 up - 4 down
  2. LameCommenter says:

    I’ve posted ad nauseum that the cards and foreshortened limits (absent untenable group size) were a Gibson disgrace against public meeting laws. He was so grandly unfit for his time as presiding officer of our Board. It is a DELIGHT to post now my gratitude that Supervisor Mecham has knowledge of the law, respect for it, and respect for the speakers.

    (27) 45 Total Votes - 36 up - 9 down
    • surferdude says:

      What a shame that the Ralph M Brown Act really has not bite to it and Gibson knew it!

      (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  3. Jorge Estrada says:

    I will just hope for the best and encourage more public participation as the new county budget gets formed. The Board needs to hear from the public to determine how the money gets allocated, not just from the staff that think they have a grip on what we need vs what we want.

    (17) 25 Total Votes - 21 up - 4 down
  4. MaryMalone says:

    QUOTING ARTICLE: “Previous chairman Bruce Gibson is now sitting in an outside seat, which is considered a less influential position.”

    —————–

    BWA-HA-HA-HA! Now if Meecham would just restrict Bruce Gibson to commenting three minutes on each topic, and require he submit cards, before the meeting, identifying the subjects on which he wishes to comment, I would be even happier.

    (30) 52 Total Votes - 41 up - 11 down
  5. Justducky says:

    Ha! Ha! Great moves, Frank! You’re no dummy! Good seating set-up. Between you and Gibson you two should be able to do some educating of flapping-mouth Debbie. And seating Compton at the end of the row, which this article says “…is considered a less influential position” was also a smart move although she has already demonstrated that she will be as silent as Texiera as she knows nothing and certainly would hate to have the public find that out.

    Also smart to let the sheriff go and extend a welcome to the public to speak. Of course, the babies will most likely prove that your welcome needs rescinding and the sheriff is really needed, but that’s up to them to demonstrate. Good moves over all, Frank. Well thought out!

    (-19) 61 Total Votes - 21 up - 40 down
  6. indigo1955 says:

    Seriously? Could this be a caring human being….as opposed to the typical pathological narcissists and sociopaths we usually see in these roles?

    (28) 42 Total Votes - 35 up - 7 down
  7. pasodowny says:

    Thank you Frank–Happy New Year indeed!

    Gibson, your policies toward the public, as detailed this piece, spotlight your distain for public involvement and cast a long shadow of irony, being that you are a public servant.

    (26) 46 Total Votes - 36 up - 10 down
    • kayaknut says:

      My guess is that Mr. Gibson never considered himself a public “servant”.

      (20) 44 Total Votes - 32 up - 12 down
    • willieslo says:

      Just get rid of Bruce Gibson and we will have a good set of county supervisors.
      What I’m puzzled about is, when he knows the public dislikes him, why stay and hold?
      My guess is that he stands down and he believes Frank Mecham is his Greek Mask.
      If this is the case because of his connections with judges, then Frank Mecham needs to realize he really does not need him!

      (-4) 18 Total Votes - 7 up - 11 down
      • MaryMalone says:

        QUOTING WILLIESLO: “Just get rid of Bruce Gibson and we will have a good set of county supervisors.”

        —————————-

        Well, Meecham has wisely started disempowering Gibson, which is the first step to getting rid of him.

        (-1) 5 Total Votes - 2 up - 3 down
  8. Reality Check says:

    Refreshing!

    (24) 38 Total Votes - 31 up - 7 down
  9. R.Hodin says:

    Why stop there?

    Allow speakers unlimited time, and install a soapbox for them to stand on … with no microphone. We can all hone our lipreading skills.

    (-25) 55 Total Votes - 15 up - 40 down
    • Slowerfaster says:

      Russ … you mean MINDREADING skills.

      One had better be an expert mentalist with much of the subjects.

      (1) 21 Total Votes - 11 up - 10 down
    • Slowerfaster says:

      http://media.trb.com/media/photo/2011-07/63330707.jpg

      Bughouse Square in Chicago, where they still do this.

      (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
    • Downtown Bob says:

      Russel, what do you think the French did to get attacked? Have any good cartoons of Kerry making a fool of himself? You’re so one sided and shallow you make me laugh.

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
    • kettle says:

      R.Hodin says: Why stop there?……….Allow speakers unlimited time,…..

      “Your Logical Fallacy is Black or white you presented two alternative states as the only possibilities, when in fact more possibilities exist. It frames the argument misleadingly and obscures rational, honest debate.” Gibsons “rules” or chaos, unlimited time etc.

      This is very much the Gibson, Hill, Marx party line, It’s their rule and you must agree or you are the enemy. For example the electronic hate of local citizens and also voters that spreads via private email accounts and fb messenger in our happy little county.

      Shameful.

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down

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