Charles Smith: The Public's Right to Speak


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blogimage.jpgCommentary on Richmond City Council Meeting 4-1-2014 Agenda Items: H-1, I-3,

One of the original goals of the Richmond Progressive Alliance was to encourage residents to attend City Council meetings and voice their opinions. As followers of the Council meetings are aware, there were many meetings attended by the RPA members and supporters where they addressed the Council. Of course, this is a right guaranteed to all of us. Many times the Council’s agenda was controversial. On these occasions, the RPA routinely lined up so many speakers in support of their positions that the meeting went on for hours. In response to their speakers came rounds of applause and yelling in support and when the attendees didn’t agree with the speakers’ positions there was often yelling and boos.

At times, Mayor McLaughlin even put items on the following meeting’s agenda as a way to chastise speakers she and others didn’t agree with such as, for example, when there were homophobic comments made about LBGT youth who received an award. On another occasion, Council member Jeff Ritterman used his position on the Council to lecture the public at great length about disparity of wealth in our economy.

It is wrong for one group to censure another group just because they don’t share its political point of view and it is especially wrong to apply rules of procedure and decorum in a discriminatory manner based on whether the Mayor and her supporters on the Council agree with the political view being expressed.

Charles T. Smith, Richmond resident

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