Entries Tagged 'Censorship' ↓

Censorship, Public Input & the SF City Council

After several months of holding it in, I finally let Council Chair Erpenbach and the rest of the council know how I felt about public input and censorship at the council working session yesterday.

I told them that 1st Amendment rights organizations like the National Coalition Against Censorship defend council rules when it comes to public input WITHIN THE LAW. I reminded them what city ordinance was, ‘5 Minutes Per Person’ and by not following that ordinance they are in a sense violating city charter and breaking the law. I recommended that in the future it would be unwise to violate this ordinance again because next time there ‘would be consequences.’ I also reminded them that they take a oath of office to uphold the US Constitution, the State Constitution and the City Charter. They are bound by that oath to NOT violate city ordinances. I also told them that they are well within their rights to limit discussion ONCE the discussion has started if someone is being disruptive or even repetative.

I told Michelle she was not being totally truthful when she said Munson limited discussion. While I agreed that he did, he only did it AFTER the discussion had started and if people were being insulting or disruptive. I said,

“He never ONCE sent out an email 24 hours in advance to the council about limiting a discussion that hadn’t even started.”

Michelle mumbled something about MMM giving her latitude on how to run the meetings. I didn’t want to get into a long rant with her about how the MAYOR is the administer of the meetings and it is actually his duty to decide where the public discussion is going-NOT HERS. They seem to be pointing the finger back and forth on this, and it is getting tiresome.

Councilor Dean Karsky asked, “Shouldn’t the council have a set policy on public input?” DEAN! YOU ALREADY DO! It is set in city charter, 5 MINUTES PER PERSON! Follow the ordinance. That is all we are asking of you.

There was some good things that came from the discussion though. There will no longer be a sign up sheet to speak to the council (I never signed that stupid thing anyway). And councilor Jamison suggested that they don’t split the PROs and CONs into two separate groups. He said just let people come up and speak when it is their turn in line.

I hope I was clear enough with the council and especially with Erpenbach. Limiting public discussion will NOT be tolerated in the future.

SF City Council continues ‘discussion’ on public input

Council chair Erpenbach just doesn’t seem to get it. She continues to want to discuss changing public input at the working sessions. Another round on the topic is planned for 4 PM today.

2. Public Input Discussion

Here’s the deal, if you have a problem the 5 minute rule, go before the charter revision commission and ask them to change it, otherwise there is NOTHING to discuss. It is time to DROP it, and follow city ordinance.

Mayor Subprime requests a meeting w/ private citizen over parodies of him

You would think Mike would be used to the hassling by now, but it is all about controlling the message I guess. He has told me several times he doesn’t believe in censorship. Well Mike, what would you call dragging a private citizen into a meeting with you after he posted parody photos of you on his Facebook page? Grow a thicker skin.

JT Nelson talks about his meeting on Facebook;

JT Nelson I’m not going to say much… but let’s just say he didn’t offer me a job, NOR does he find this funny. [walking away with tail between legs].

• So much for being Grand Poo-Ba of the St. Patty’s Day parade. Did he take away your birthday?

JT Nelson Pretty much. I think I’m grounded.

• You’ve stained the family name. I’m thinking JT Jelinkovic will be your new name.

• Hope you charged him for your time.

JT Nelson I thinking about the last name “Timberlake”…. JTT. I like the sound of that. Maybe I’ll run for mayor.

• Well to put it this way in my opinion, he needs to realize he is a public figure and his actions on national tv reflect our community. In other words, when your a public official, don’t be dancing around pointing at people like a teenager on crack. Too bad I can’t find a video of it online.

• I am kind of surprised he didn’t find the humor in it. It was all in fun, and he is probably embarassed because he realized how ridiculous he looked. I noticed it while watching the game too. I hope he wasn’t too tough on you. You are not banished from SF for life, I hope!

Here are a few of my faves


How will the ‘Cowardly Five’ address public input & testimony?

The city council plans to discuss ‘public testimony’ at there next work session on Wednesday at 4 PM.

Why has the city, or more importantly our media been silent about this letter?

I received a copy of this letter a few days ago. I decided not to post it until now, because I wondered if our local media was going to report it. Besides being sent to AL‘s managing editor, Patrick Lalley, I understand it has also been emailed to KELO-TV. Hey, I am not the news media, but I cannot fathom why they would sit on this letter for over 3 weeks and say nothing of it’s existance. You would think a citizen who has successfully sued the city and beat them in circuit and state supreme court threatens to sue you over other constitutional violations, you would jump. Well, I can kind of understand why the city has been silent, because of legal ramafications, but why has our local media?

This letter is why I asked the question of councilman Staggers this morning about violating city ordinance.

What did I say about our local media being handed stories on a silver platter and doing nothing with them? One more example. The other part that bothers me is the AL constantly getting on the soapbox about free speech and open records and transparency, and when a citizen threatens to sue the city over these very things, they zip their lips, nothing to see here, move along. We have already determined our city council consists of cowards and now we see our local media isn’t very far behind them in that assessment.


UPDATED: The AL’s editorial is about ‘Listening to the Public’ then they delete my FB comment

UPDATE: I see my comment returned after its 24-hour hiatus. Funny how those things work out.

So apparently, the city council needs to listen to the public, but the newspaper and it’s readers do not have to.

I commented on this story, VIA Facebook, and a couple of hours later the comment was deleted from THEIR site, but still exists on my FB Page (Below).

Why mess around with a wrist slapping?

A lot of people lately have been asking if Stehly or I are going to file an ethics complaint against council chair Erpenbach for limiting public input. Stehly went as far as going to the Charter Revision Commission meeting to ask them about it (one more reason why these meetings need to be recorded);

Theresa Stehly wants to know what happens if a city councilor violates city ordinance.

For example, she says, what happens if a councilor got a letter from Project T.R.I.M., failed to trim his or her trees, so the city comes out and does it, charges $150, and said councilor never pays?

Stehly proposed this scenario during Thursday’s Charter Revision Commission meeting, and asked whether it would be grounds for an ethics violation.

City Attorney Dave Pfeifle told her city councilors are held to the same standards as other citizens, and failing to trim trees and not paying a fine would be similar to getting a speeding ticket or parking ticket.

“So there’s no recourse there?” Stehly asked.

“They’re treated the same as everyone else,” Pfeifle said.

“Shouldn’t they be held to a higher standard being they’re an elected official?” Stehly asked. “Could I file an ethics violation against someone for breaking city ordinance?”

Pfeifle said she could, but it’s doubtful that would be grounds for an ethics violation.

First, let me clear the air. While several people who were involved in the December 18 council meeting censorship debacle have thrown around the idea of an ethics complaint, we are mostly in agreement; even if Erpenbach was found guilty of an ethics violation, what would be the recourse? There wouldn’t be any, and the council could continue to limit public input. This is bigger then that. The council and council chair need to be STOPPED from ever doing this again. In other words, take the rule book out of their hands and make them follow the existing rules;


(c) Each person addressing the city council shall step up to the microphone in front of the rail, shall give his or her name in an audible tone of voice for the record, and unless further time is granted by the city council, shall be limited to five minutes.

Citizens must decide what will be done to accomplish this. There are MANY avenues we could follow, but one thing is clear, Erpenbach possibly violated city ordinance by limiting public input.

Not sure where it is going from here, but I will assure you, an ethics complaint is definately off the table. Stay tuned.

Did SF City Council Chair Michelle Erpenbach violate city ordinance?

Since the December 18 council meeting, in which Erpenbach limited public testimony to 20 minutes for the snowgate advocates, I have been researching Roberts Rules, city ordinances, statutes, 1st Amendment rights and censorship. While some of my findings are not definitive, especially when it comes to public input,  some things do stand out. From all accounts city ordinance is very clear about the 5 minute testimonial rule, but is the council required to follow it?

You be the judge.

*Your feedback on this post will be essential in what I decide will be the next steps in preventing the council and mayor from limiting public testimony.


It is important to note that the current city council has never had an adoption of rules of order. In other words the parliamentary procedures they follow are standing rules of the past. Chapter 30.012 of city charter outlines this;


Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (latest edition) shall govern the proceedings of the council in all cases, unless they are in conflict with this subchapter.


There has been much talk about whether the council chair can limit the number of questions other councilors can ask during a public meeting. According to Roberts Rules she cannot unless by a two-thirds vote of the entire body;

The chairman cannot close debate unless by order of the assembly, which requires a two-thirds vote; nor can he prevent the making of legitimate motions by hurrying through the proceedings. If members are reasonably prompt in exercising their right to speak or make motions, the chair cannot prevent their doing so. If he has hurriedly taken and announced a vote while a member is rising to address the chair, the vote is null and void, and the member must be recognized. On the other hand the chairman should not permit the object of a meeting to be defeated by a few factious persons using parliamentary forms with the evident object of obstructing business. In such a case he should refuse to entertain the dilatory or frivolous motion, and, if an appeal is taken, he should entertain it, and, if sustained by a large majority he may afterwards refuse to entertain even an appeal made by the faction when evidently made merely to obstruct business. But the chair should never adopt such a course merely to expedite business, when the opposition is not factious. It is only justifiable when it is perfectly clear that the opposition is trying to obstruct business. [See Dilatory Motions, 40].


There are no real statutes in Roberts Rules for public testimony;

Some issues, such as budget approval or ordinance changes, require public hearings, according to statutes. But for regular, open meetings, municipalities are left to their own devices to make the meeting rules.

Rules can be good, Dreps said. They can keep meetings moving so everyone can get home before midnight. They can prevent municipal employees from getting dragged through the mud when they’re not there to defend themselves.

But public officials shouldn’t hide behind rules for convenience’s sake, he said.

“What can you say?” Dreps said. “Democracy is messy.”

Basically each governing body can determine their own set of rules, which the city council has done in their ordinances. According to Chapter 30.015 of city charter;


(a) During the public input portion at the start of a city council meeting, no person shall be permitted to speak on a topic that appears later in that meeting’s agenda if public input will be received when that agenda item is up for discussion.

(b) No person shall address the city council without first securing the permission of the mayor, or acting mayor, to do so.

(c) Each person addressing the city council shall step up to the microphone in front of the rail, shall give his or her name in an audible tone of voice for the record, and unless further time is granted by the city council, shall be limited to five minutes.

(d) All remarks shall be addressed to the city council as a body and not to any member thereof.

(e) No person, other than the city council and the person having the floor, shall be permitted to enter into any discussion, either directly or through a member of the city council without the permission of the mayor or acting mayor.

(f) No question shall be asked of a city council member except through the mayor or acting mayor.

(g) No person, except city council members, shall address the council after a motion is made and seconded unless requested by a city council member.

(1992 Code, § 2-16) (Ord. 50-95, passed 3-20-1995; Ord. 52-11, passed 7-11-2011; Ord. 24-12, passed 4-2-2012)

So, since the current city council has never had their own adoption of rules, wouldn’t this mean they should be following current city charter?

And according to the current city charter each person can only be limited to a 5 minute time period, unless they are being disruptive. So when Council Chair Erpenbach ‘concocted’ a new set of time restraints for public input before that input started, did she violate city ordinance?

Love to hear the city attorney weigh in on this one, and he just might get an opportunity to do so.

Learn more about SOPA

Read about this dangerous legislation.

Power, Taboo and the Artist • National Coalition Against Censorship

This is a great video series on censorship in art and public funding of art.