Free Speech Gains a Short Reprieve from the Vancouver City Council

by lewwaters

The machination of government is something that never ceases to amaze me. The back and forth between factions and pretending to listen to people is just at times astonishing as well as enlightening.

Such was the case this evening at the Vancouver City Council meeting as the council took up a discussion on regulating free speech, even though they felt they were not.

The discussion centered on a proposed ordinance that would have placed restrictions on assemblies larger than 100 and would require a 6 day notification of the assembly, payment of a $60 fee, plus other requirements.

After dispensing with other business, Mayor Leavitt opened up the discussion on the proposed ordinance. Of the 10 citizens permitted to speak on the ordinance, not one spoke in support of it.

Larry Patella, Tom Hann, Terry Busch, Charlie Stemper, Debbie Peterson and several others whose names I failed to write down, all rose one at a time pointing out how this ordinance either would or would have the potential to eventually be used to deny people their right to peaceful assembly and to deny them free speech, protected under the first amendment of our constitution.

Similar tactics were either in place or used in segregated Southern States to deny Black Americans their right to assemble in their effort to gain the Civil Rights that should have been theirs in the first place. Although this is a point I was going to make, since I was born and raised in the South and saw it firsthand, Mr. Patella beat me to it, identifying those who used such an ordinance as “Southern Democrats,” a historical fact councilmember Bart Hansen should acquaint himself with as he took exception to the comment.

Bart, you can argue all you wish and take exception, it will not change the historical fact of it having happened. Perhaps Bart will do himself a favor and order a copy of the book, Whites, Blacks and Racist Democrats by Rev. Wayne Perryman.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Councilmember Pat Campbell argue against the ordinance as written as he saw the dangers of such an ordinance infringing on our first amendment right to assemble peacefully and exercise free speech. Joining him in expressing doubts as well as voting against it were councilmember’s Jack Burkman, Larry Smith and Jeanne E. Stewart.

The other 3, Mayor Leavitt, who feels it is not such a big deal and councilmember’s Jeanne Harris and Bart Hansen expressed support of the ordinance, Harris and Hansen both saying they had no problems at all with it.

I’d like to remind the mayor that any act that might modify, restrict or infringe in any way upon our constitutional rights is a “big deal.”

At one point, Mayor Leavitt turned to the audience as asked if we really felt the council was infringing upon our right to free speech and to assemble. To his dismay, the audience resoundingly said YES!

What really struck me in the council’s discussion was hearing many say they had not had a chance to read through the proposed ordinance yet as it had just been returned to the council this evening. (Please read councilmember Burkman’s clarification/correction on this in his comment below)

Cara Cantonwine, Special Events Coordinator was asked several questions by the council that elicited an “I don’t know” answer as she reiterated the ordinance was more or less a “what if” something should happen.

Also asked about any past problems in the 5 or so events a year that may happen in Vancouver that might have cost the city in repairs or clean-up, another reason given for the necessity of this ordinance, also brought back the answer of “none that she could recall.”

In essence, as I believe was brought out, what the ordinance would do is already happening. Which brings up the question, why is it needed in the first place?

Visibly perturbed at citizen comments against and the council vote to deny the ordinance at this time were councilmember’s Hansen and Harris. Both stated the punitive sections of the ordinance would not necessarily have to be enforced, again bringing to mind, why have the 22 page ordinance?

Mayor Leavitt expressed support and voted for it also; sealing his fate at the next election as it is doubtful he will receive support from conservatives as he did to help him defeat Mayor Pollard. I just hope Tim doesn’t get too comfortable in the Mayors seat, this being the second time I have seen him ignoring the voice and will of the people.

The council voted unanimously to send the proposal back to staff to remove restrictions that could occur on free speech for anyone, left or right and to rewrite that portion to encourage notification to the city, even in the case of short notice as political events, rallies or protests often do not have the 6 days needed to obtain a permit, bills being rapidly brought out and scheduled for votes today.

I’d like to extend special thanks to councilmember’s Campbell, Burkman, Stewart and Smith for their voices of common sense and speaking for upholding our constitutional rights.

To the others, your efforts to shut down Tea Parties, Freedom Rallies or other assemblies that oppose your left-winged views failed. We will continue to show up and oppose any effort to place restrictions on our constitutional rights.

13 Responses to “Free Speech Gains a Short Reprieve from the Vancouver City Council”

  1. Lew,

    Our Constitution is the foundation of Washington State and our America. For those that do not stand for this bedrock that our founding Fathers gave us, will soon find themselves voted out of office. The people of Vancouver have spoken to preserve our freedom to assemble and address issues that are putting the American people in bondage.

    Respectfully,

    Chuck Miller

  2. In this article you state, “What really struck me in the council’s discussion was hearing many say they had not had a chance to read through the proposed ordinance yet as it had just been returned to the council this evening.”

    I think you are confusing a couple of different documents that were before Council. All of Council received the latest version of the draft ordinance last week and I believe everyone read it. Right before the meeting Dr. Kissinger (Wine & Jazz and Bravo events) sent an email to Council. He was out of the country, couldn’t testify, and provided written testimony. Only a couple of us had seen that document and read it. City staff and most of Council had not read it and I think that’s what you are referring to.

    At times there was some confusion about where to find certain phrases in the draft ordinance. That’s because we had two copies: the official one for the public hearing and a copy of the previous version we reviewed two weeks ago. That previous version had editing marks such as strikeouts and additions, which made it a different, longer document.

  3. I’ll take your word on that, Jack.

    But to me, sitting out in the audience and listening to you, Campbell, Smith and Stewart, I could not hear any real need for the ordinance as it was presented.

    I think your recommendation of rewriting it to “encourage notification” was the proper way to go.

    To me, an ordinance pertaining to any of our constitutional rights and based upon a “what if” scenario possibly occuring can be a very dangerous two-edged sword that could be used in the future to silence dissent and opposition from either side.

    The 4 of you that voted ‘Nay’ last evening did the right thing, in my opinion.

  4. Lew,

    From what I had seen and followed the past month or so of this proposal was not about political free speech machinations as you proport that is goes after. I think what was to give a general guideline to build a reference piece and framework to handle big and small events that come to Vancouver.

    Have you seen how many more events are coming to local public parks like Esther Short Park in downtown and other parks in this city over the past few years than ever before. Since Esther Short park was revitalized, its handling more and more public and private events?

    I am in support of a framework to handle events of any size. No, I do not believe in squelching some one’s free speech right to march over to Interstate 5 and protest or have some type of event in Esther Short park or any other public right-of-way as long as people follow some good commonsense and a few good, basic, general rules.

    Sounds I need to review this proposal again to see what people are all crazed over about and watch Monday’s City council meeting on CVTV. But from what I saw over the past month or so that this ordinance really had not gotten much attention from the citizen or public at all. (There was one person who commented on a week ago about this ordinance at the city council meeting and had some good comments. But why do I feel this is just another blow over nothing?)

  5. Jeremy, we are told the intent is not to squelch free speech or the right to assemble and while that is probably true, at least to an extent, has happened in the past, such an ordinance could do just that.

    All too often, those in charge later on re-read something and apply it contrary to original intent.

    It’s a shame that we must be so worried about wording, but we have several examples of poor wording of laws and ordinance being misused against groups.

    That is why I appreciate the comments, questions and recommendations of Campbell, Burkman, Smith and Stewart last evening.

    That the others saw no problem in the wording and comments that the enforcement section might not necessarily be carried out, apparently on the whim of someone, disturbs me.

    Please watch the council meeting and I think you will see what I mean.

    At any rate, council took the appropriate action last evening to send it back for further revision.

  6. Lew,
    Thanks for your comments which are very complete.

    Jack Burkman’s comments regarding the letter received at the last minute from Dr. Kissinger (Wine & Jazz Festival organizer) were correct. The rewritten ordinance was available to council last Thursday.

    As you stated-

    “That the others saw no problem in the wording and comments that the enforcement section might not necessarily be carried out, apparently on the whim of someone, disturbs me.”

    I wonder how 3 out of 7 of us and many others miss the meaning of the Bill of Rights? I participated in the Civil Rights Movement – in Seattle- not the South. (Frankly, this was not a Southern States problem as some make it out to be.) All manner of tools were use to segregate American society in the North as well as the South. Many of our younger people 45 and below have lived in a different world and just don’t understand how we got where we are and don’t appreciate the rights they have as much as the oldsters.

    I know we often disagree Lew and I don’t expect that to change much. You run this blog from your heart and mind and endeavor to keep the discussion civil.

    Great to finally meet you last night.
    Thanks,
    Pat

  7. Pat, thanks for the kind words and thanks to both you and Burkman for the correction on my misunderstanding of what had not yet been read by council.

    While we will no doubt disagree on subjects in the future, I hope we will continue to find areas to agree on. My wife and I both felt your arguments last evening were what we both agreed with the most.

    Likewise, meeting you face to face was great. It’s always nice to actually meet those you debate with.

  8. Lew,

    When it comes to our Constitution, Bill of Rights and our
    Declaration Of Independence, we are in hopes we continue to find common ground even with those we most often disagree with. After all the enemies of America want to destroy all of US.

    Sincerely,

    Chuck Miller

  9. Since it seems that our city council members are reviewing this blog, I’d like to take the opportunity to tell them all that:

    We are now paying attention! You people need to understand clearly that there are those of us who have become aware that our Constitutions are being routinely infringed upon. It is unacceptable, and there *will* be a reckoning come November. Be advised.

  10. Ah, free speech. The American right to publicly denounce our leaders–unless you work at Clark College. Where faculty are routinely dismissed for voicing their concern over administration decision. Here we have conservatives that love the US Constitution, unless it ruffles their feathers. In the splendid words of one of your own conservatives, “I don’t want to hear or talk anymore about this topic [3% pay cuts for faculty]. You don’t have the right to speak to me about this” (stated by President Knight during a closed door meeting, and leaked by one of his administrators)

  11. This is a very strange post. I would think as a (Part-timer) you would be more so worried about being one of those adjunts, or part timers to be terminated when the union comes back with it’s decision to keep the 3%.

    Just my 2 cents.

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