Morro Bay council passes on public comment crackdown

February 11, 2016

Morro Bay 4The Morro Bay City Council discarded the advice of its city attorney who suggested cracking down on public speakers who use council meetings to announce political campaigns. [Tribune]

At the Jan. 12 council meeting, Morro Bay resident and former councilwoman, Betty Winholtz, announced during public comment that she plans to run for mayor in the November election. City Attorney Joseph Pannone then warned the council against allowing public commenters to announce they are seeking political office.

On Tuesday, Winholtz and others returned to the lectern at the Morro Bay council meeting and said they have a First Amendment right to campaign during public comment. Winholtz also said the council should not be deciphering between political and nonpolitical speech.

Pannone responded, saying that allowing campaigning during public comment could open the door for political activism relating to county, state or national issues that are not connected to Morro Bay. Speech at council meetings should be limited to city business, Pannone said.

Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons will likely run for reelection this year, but he has yet to declare that his intent to do so. Some critics have said Pannone was trying to give an advantage to incumbents in the upcoming election.

During a council discussion Tuesday, Councilwoman Christine Johnson said Morro Bay voters indirectly chose to dial down political discussion by voting in 2014 to eliminate the city’s primary election. Seventy-six percent of voters said they did not want to talk about politics until they had to, Johnson said.

Councilman Noah Smukler said it is often best to sit and listen to public comment and that you lose almost every time you try to limit it.

The council chose not to limit public comment Tuesday. After deliberating the issue, the council did not give Pannone specific direction, but it did suggest that he consider drafting small changes to city rules on public comments that do not pertain to issues in which the city has jurisdiction.


Pannone is a joke and a terrible City Attorney. He gets paid by the hour so he comes up with crazy bullshit ideas like this. I have been told that our City Attorney costs have doubled since the last one was fired by King Irons. I was told we are paying Pannone and his firm over $500k a year. For what? So he can violate our first amendment rights? I rarely agree with Betty but on this one she is right on. In a democracy, the means by which one achieves goals matters as much or even more than the goal itself. Such means speak to the character of those who would serve in public office. Clearly Pannone has no character. Its tough to find a good City Attorney that has character and ethics, its unfortunate that we had one and the City Council let him go.


From what I’ve heard is that the lame city council decided to buy the property just outside the city limits,as they had over stepped their welcome at Rancho Colina wanting more property than they had orginally talked about, see the city wants to move the corporation yard out there also and that wasn’t discussed in early conversations,so now they have decided to buy other property,even though no one has any idea of earth moving costs to create this boondoggle and the costs for diverting the hot and cold sewer lines up and over thru Hill street instead of Hwy 41 as they may be some dead indians in the way.

I would venture a guess that with the firing of Lester from the coastal commission that things could be done at the site that we now have a little easier.


Why is it always liberal government bodies that search for ways to silence the people?


It isn’t. Maybe check out the Patriot Act.


NorCoMod says “It isn’t. Maybe check out the Patriot Act.”

The Patriot Act? Oh, you mean the Patriot Act that Hillary Clinton voted for- twice?

Do you mean THAT Patriot Act?


How does the Patriot act silence you?


We can’t have citizens using their democratic rights and freedoms clogging up the system; we’re trying to run a government. The last thing we need are the opinions of a bunch of citizens taking up our time.

I am the great and powerful Oz. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Black Copter Pilot

I’ll bet that Pannone is the moderator here.


And you would lose that bet.

Black Copter Pilot

When the Angel of humor flew over your mother’s womb, it must have blinked.

mb business owner

by working on these types of things, the council gets to totally ignore making any progress on projects like the waste water treatment plant – hows that going? anyone know?


Free speech needs to be sacred and protected.


Sounds like that city attorney needs a reminder of who he serves or perhaps a job change.


Keep the dialogue going and you’ll never have to use the heating system.