Thursday, November 12, 2015

Record blasts City's unconstitutional decorum resolution; Mayor Nancy Shaver must move to undo it under Roberts' Rules -- she is empowered to do it because she strategically voted for it and now can move to reconsider at December 14, 2015 meeting

Editorial: Is decorum a two-way street?
Posted: November 11, 2015 - 8:54pm | Updated: November 12, 2015 - 12:00am

Monday city commissioners walked the slippery slope of legislating manners when it voted in a new resolution regulating “decorum” at public meetings.

This seems similar to the noted case of the Supreme Court trying to define “pornography.” Justice Potter Stewart remarked that he wasn’t sure how to define it, “but I know it when I see it.” Pornography and decorum have little in common, but we hope the point is taken.

There are reasons aplenty for a set of rules covering public behavior at these meetings. Some commissioners believed it a good idea to codify decorum for all to see — set the playing field level. There is legal precedent from a Jacksonville case ruling that the presiding officer at a government meeting has a significant interest in managing an efficient public agenda, in conserving time and ensuring that all parties have a chance to speak without disruption.

But sometimes a legal description of an abstract idea muddies the waters. Harken back to the county’s fight against the nude bar out on Interstate 95 years ago and the 353-word legal description in its ensuing nudity ordinance of what — precisely — comprised a lady’s behind. This resolution is fraught with some of the same.

For instance, speakers are prohibited from using terminology or gestures that cause a disruptive environment in which public officials discharge their duties. What’s a prohibited gesture? What, exactly, is disruptive terminology? Applause certainly applies, and we’ve all seen it.

What follows in the ordinance is a list of eight “mays” and “may nots,” — all quite specific.

The penalty? The offender may be “gaveled out of order by the chairperson.” Failing that, the upstart may be removed.

The effort is understandable. But a couple of pages of new rules boil down to the acting chair gaveling the offender out of order — which is the current end game. After that, the offender may be removed from the meeting — forcibly if necessary — which has always been the case as well.

So what’s to gain? Probably little. In fact, by spelling out legal terms for human thoughts and gestures, we may be hamstringing ourselves, legally speaking, by lending clear definition for challenges, possibly in court.

Sometimes common sense and perspective are clearer gauges of right and wrong than legalese. But the commission saw it differently and that’s that.

But think about it: Had this editorial not been written in your newspaper, and it could somehow speak out loud at the dais in the Alcazar Room, under the new rules we could well be gaveled “out of order” ourselves for “making irrelevant, repetitive, personal ... and impertinent comments.”

And we have to wonder out loud why there isn’t a big “vice-versa” clause at the end of the resolution.

From what we’ve seen over the past year, the commissioners, themselves, have been guilty of breaking a slew of their own new rules of decorum — inflicting peevish behavior upon its citizenry.

The ordinance is mum on just who gavels them.

Comments (1) Add comment

Firstcoaster 11/12/15 - 08:52 am 40Agree
This is an editorial that I can agree with.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

please post comments from record