If anyone thinks that the St. Cloud City Council isn’t hostile to the First Amendment, they need only view the video for the June 4th City Council meeting starting approximately 65 minutes into the meeting. During a discussion of City Council Rule No. 16, George Hontos defended the rule, saying that “Without objection, any council member could object to it. I mean, I object all the time but the point is that said recognition shall terminate upon motion passed by majority vote of the Council. So, in other words, one person can object but it takes a majority vote…”
With this Council, that’s meaningless. Laraway, Lewis, Libert, Masters and Goerger vote in lockstep. It isn’t that they’re incapable of independent thought. It’s that they frequently choose not to think independently. Further, the First Amendment didn’t appoint someone to be the arbiter of who gets to speak. The government doesn’t have the right to silence citizens during a public meeting.
Later in the same explanation, Councilman Hontos tried selling the virtue of having a recognized speaker being rejected by a majority of the Council instead of a single councilmember shooting down the previously recognized speaker. That’s a flawed argument. First, most of the people that objected to recognizing Dr. Palmer have a personal animus against Dr. Palmer because — gasp! — he’s held them accountable multiple times. He’s highlighted their mistakes. FYI- Being rejected by a majority doesn’t mean that the majority is right. It simply means that 4 or more people agree.
In essence, Dr. Palmer was rejected for less than honorable reasons. I’m not ok with that.
Later in the discussion, Dr. Palmer stepped to the microphone to defend himself and debate the rule. Council President Lewis told him he had to sit down, that he hadn’t been recognized to speak. Dr. Palmer refused, thanks in large part to something I wrote about in this post:
“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.
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 Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Ms. Hensel had the right to be disruptive during a meeting. Repeatedly telling Dr. Palmer to sit down is a violation of that Minnesota Supreme Court ruling.
This Council don’t want public input. The exception seems to be when a businessman is asked to explain why he’s asking for a variance or applying for some sort of license or whatever. I don’t have a problem with those people getting recognized. I’m just establishing the council’s inconsistency.
Later in the discussion on Rule 16, Councilman Masters said “Personally, I take offense with Dr. Palmer not following the rules and standing before the Council after being asked numerous times to sit down please. You have your time when you can speak during the Open Forum.”
According to the Minnesota Supreme Court, asking Dr. Palmer to sit down is against their ruling. Further, one of the rules of Open Forum is that speakers can’t speak about agenda items. This discussion was an agenda item. In other words, Councilman Masters was incorrect in saying that Dr. Palmer could address the Council on this later.
What’s delicious about that confrontation is that Dr. Palmer filed to run against Councilman Masters earlier in the day. Further, who is Councilman Masters to complain about following the rules when he’s violating a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling? That’s doing more than violating a Council rule. That’s violating a Supreme Court ruling.
Finally, Elizabeth Baklaich, Dr. Palmer and I spoke during the final part of the meeting. It’s known as Open Forum. Each of us spoke to what we see as the Council’s unwillingness to listen to We The People. Our speeches start at 1:20:00.