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Seeking Civil Society - Redux

“Yes, Virginia, It Does Matter Whose Ox is Gored.”

I’m sincerely interested in promoting civil society. As a preface to this article, I encourage the reader to reread the earlier article updated in September 2020 from the original article of September 2016.

My suggestion at the time was for cities to adopt an appropriate council policy. Based on the novelty of restricting speech, the only feedback I got was from individuals concerned that this “kind” of policy would run afoul of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Actually, finance directors were not opposed to the idea but their city attorneys didn’t like the idea of pushing a concept that would require a lot of money and, if successful, benefit a lot of “other” cities.

The impetus for the latest action on this issue originated in October, 2021, when then Mayor Marico Sayoc and her family were subjected to racially-charged “bullying, harassment and intimidation” at a Los Gatos Town meeting. Two State legislators, Assemblymember Evan Low and Senator Dave Cortese, followed up to determine what was being done to protect the mayor by stopping this behavior. They concluded that no official at the Town, County or State level felt that stopping this behavior was possible under current law.

As a result, Low and Cortese, have introduced SB-1100 which would modify the Brown Act to give clear direction when public input becomes harassment and verbal abuse, and what actions could (or should) be taken to shut down this behavior. Naturally, the devil is in the details on how to word this bill. It has gone through several versions and the League of California Cities has a “Watch” status for this bill as of March, 2022.

It is my wish that the future reader of this article will wonder what the fuss was all about as meetings are, of course, civil (again). My co-title is thanks to F.P. Church who also wanted people to believe an ideal in a skeptical age. But, again, just hoping!

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