By Linda Sutter – March 28, 2017 –
Got an opinion about an issue in Del Norte County? Some of the Supervisors on the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors want you to keep it to yourself.
Democracy depends on the free flow of ideas, but the board — one of the most powerful local government bodies cut the microphone on a speaker because they did not like to hear what she had to say. This was followed up with County Council Elizabeth Cable stating, “You can’t make statements that attack the supervisor.”
This violates the state’s Brown Act and the First Amendment. Instead of the board acknowledging its role as servants of the people, it treats the community as an impediment to conducting its own business. It’s the duty of supervisors to listen to their community; it’s not an inconvenience to be endured, it’s their job.
The board also prohibits people from directly addressing individual supervisors. Comments must be directed to the “board as a whole through the chair.”
Preventing the public from addressing an individual supervisor directly leads to absurd results. It would prevent a person from responding to a remark made by a particular supervisor, ignores the fact that the supervisors are not a cohesive body and subverts the supervisors’ roles as representatives of specific districts.
With that said, today at the Board of Supervisors meeting I begin to read this speech:
“Supervisor Cowan, you worked very hard to get elected and despite that the Supervisors position is a non-partisan position, a party backed you which happens to be the Republican Party.
I have been asked to obtain signatures for your recall. I will not disclose the proponents name but I will be serving you notice at a regularly scheduled BOS meeting.
The reason for the recall is because people are very disappointed with your self serving attitude.”
At that moment, Sup. Gerry Hemmingsen says, “cut the microphone,” which was followed by Chairman Howard ordering Kylie to cut the microphone, followed by the County Counsel Elizabeth Cable stating, “ You can’t make statements attacking the supervisor.” I was asked to sit down.
Donna Westfall got up and began stating the same thing and again Chairman Howard cut the microphone. County Counsel Cable gets on the microphone and states, “Freedom of speech and she can continue.” Donna Westfall continues her speech for the entire 3 minutes. Sup. Lori Cowan smirked the whole time and could care less that her constituents are unhappy with her.
Once Donna Westfall was done with her public comment, Elizabeth Cable got back on the microphone and asked, “If there is anyone in the audience who feels they were not heard? We do not want you to feel that way.” She offered me the opportunity to return to the microphone to read my speech. I begin again:
“I have been asked to obtain signatures for your Recall. I will not disclose the proponents name today but I will be serving you notice during a regular scheduled BOS meeting. (Chairman Howard, “Those are attacking statements.”) I continue to read besides the best intimidation tactics by Howard.
“People are very disappointed in your self-serving attitude, in your refusal to call them back, in your wanting to increase garbage rates when you yourself didn’t pay for the microbrewery disaster and for your demonstration of frivolously attempting to spend money on the backs of taxpayers to go to Japan and now to go to Washington D.C. The people in the 2nd district are not only disappointed in your blatant deception of broken promises; but in your inability to understand issues of importance.
The people of 2nd district understand there is a learning curve for any new Supervisor but are not understanding your blatant disrespect, self-serving alignment with democratic points of view that are dangerous with absence of intelligent decision making. Supervisor Cowan this is your last and final chance to uphold your campaign promises or lose your position as a Supervisor.”
The County Counsel made the right decision to allow me to speak. My words did not create anything more than an uncomfortable feeling for Sup. Cowan. My words did not constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence.