Search
Archives
Categories

Last night, the St. Cloud City Council disgraced itself by silencing a citizen. Specifically, Councilman John Libert, who is up for re-election this year, objected to Councilman Jeff Johnson recognizing a speaker. If you read my article last night, you know that the speaker Councilman Johnson wanted to recognize is John Palmer, a retired professor at St. Cloud State. Dr. Palmer holds the title of Professor Emeritus.

Last night, a faithful reader of LFR sent me a copy of the changing rules of order for the City Council. Saying that they reflect an autocratic mindset sounds over-the-top. The history and the detailed rules say something else. For instance, Rule No. 16 of the City Council Rules of Order “through August 2017” said “Recognition of Speakers a) Any member may recognize any person for the purpose of addressing the Council. Said recognition shall terminate upon motion passed by a majority vote of members present.”

By the Dec. 11, 2017 Study Session, Rule 16 had morphed into “Recognition of Speakers: a) Any member, at a regular council meeting, may recognize any person for the purpose of providing testimony or addressing the Council on a specific agenda item being considered by Council. Said recognition shall terminate upon motion passed by a majority vote of members present. Such recognition may also be extended at council study sessions with the consent of the majority of members present.”

Last night, a different rule was in place:

Recognition of Speakers: a) Any member, at a regular council meeting, including study sessions, may recognize any person, without objection, for the purpose of providing testimony or addressing the Council on a specific agenda item being considered by Council. Said recognition shall terminate upon motion passed by a majority vote of members present.

The First Amendment guarantees citizens the right to “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Dr. Palmer had the right to “petition the Government” and address their grievances. Had this happened in August, Dr. Palmer would have had the right to address the Council, though I suspect that Council President Lewis still would have improperly shut him down. She, along with the other ostriches, haven’t hesitated in restricting citizens’ speech rights if it’s speech they don’t agree with. What’s most infuriating is the fact that the rules that were in place last night weren’t approved by the City Council nor were they voted on in this form.

Think about that. Dr. Palmer was silenced by the city council president after she agreed with one of the city councilmembers who cited a rule that wasn’t voted on and that’s likely unconstitutional. Such reckless regard for the rules lead to anarchy like we saw last night. This is what that looked like last night:

Compare the St. Cloud City Council’s behavior with the behavior in this article:

“I feel like justice was finally served,” said Robin Hensel, whose refusal to move her chair at a 2013 Little Falls City Council meeting was at the heart of the court’s decision. Hensel, a grandmother and peace activist who frequently protests at Camp Ripley, said she never thought she would actually get charged when she moved a folding chair to the open space between the public galley and the City Council’s dais.

This is the major takeaway from that incident:

In its ruling Wednesday, the Supreme Court sided with Hensel, saying: “The statute is broad and ambiguous, prohibiting any conduct or speech that ‘disturbs an assembly or meeting,’ whether expressive or not. An individual could violate the statute by, for example, wearing an offensive t-shirt, using harsh words in addressing another person, or even raising one’s voice in a speech.”

The Founding Fathers, aka the men who wrote the Constitution, wanted more speech, not less. They didn’t want speech being oppressed. They rebelled against that in their Declaration of Independence.

When Carol Lewis and John Libert silenced a retired professor, they trampled on a citizen’s right to free speech. What’s most alarming is that they silenced a man even though they didn’t know what he was about to say. It’s time to fire these autocrats the next time they’re up for re-election. It’s time to fire them because they’re autocrats, not constitutionalists.

Finally, Mayor Kleis bears some responsibility, too. As Dr. Palmer highlighted in the comments last night, Mayor Kleis didn’t fight against the constitutional missteps that happened last night. That can’t happen again. There’s never a time when the Constitution shouldn’t be defended. Last night, Mayor Kleis missed an opportunity to defend the Constitution.

Technorati: , , , , ,

2 Responses to “City Council’s shifting rules”

  • Crimson Trace says:

    Gary: “without objection” is nebulous. John Palmer did not object to being recognized by Council member Johnson. I must have missed the “without objection by any other council member language. So this means any council member who feels like a member of the public might be controversial should simply object.

  • Gary Gross says:

    CT, the other option for the Council is to grow a pair & actually listen to the people rather than objecting to hearing from We The People. That would be a revolutionary idea, something that they could be proud of. Unfortunately, the ostriches don’t have the stones to do that.

Leave a Reply