The recent proposal to limit public speaking at supervisors’ meetings put under review is just one more ludicrous action proposed by our not so illustrious LA County Board of Supervisors.
I’ve monitored the Board for the past 12 years, and I’ve made a point to hold their feet to the fire when it comes to all things health related. At the meetings I rarely hold more than a couple of health related items, but I know that there are others who hold 10 or 20 items or more. The holding of so many items may appear inconvenient to some, but who’s to say that those individuals holding the items don’t believe that these items are important. Occasionally, there’s an individual that uses very hateful language when addressing the Board. Is this worth limiting all our rights to free speech to rein in this one person? And if we limit language that is deemed racist, hateful and so forth what stops the Board from adding other types of speech to the “banned” words list – this is a slippery slope.
To provide some historic perspective, the LA County Board of Supervisors used to meet twice a week, now they meet once a week. Meetings are set to start at 9:30, but I can’t recall one that has ever started on time – so meetings usually don’t begin until 10:00 or later. Could this delay be due to private meet and greets held up on the 8th floor, mini-press conferences and so forth? I’d argue that if time management were an issue then why don’t they start on time, because it doesn’t make sense to start 30 to 45 minutes late if time management is an issue. Also, why spend one to two hours a meeting on handing out commendations, this puffery is best left for a celebratory day held once a month, and not as part of a meeting that Supervisor Yaroslavsky says is about carrying out the business of the County. Watch the Board long enough and you’ll even witness the handing out of commendations to departments that the press or Board has lambasted only weeks before for mismanagement, allowing children to die while under their care, etc.
Of course there are always going to be those who choose to abuse the system – that’s life. However attempting to quash the public’s right to address the Board on agenda items isn’t the way to do it. And this isn’t the first time that the Board has attempted to quash the rights of the public to address and speak freely at Board meetings. Several years ago, while under Supervisor Molina’s leadership the Board attempted to pass a nearly identical motion, “The Merrick Motion”. Yes, they even named it after the offending member of the public. We were able to convince the Board to shelf the motion, at the time even Supervisor Yaroslavsky admitted that the motion was a slippery slope, but apparently not slippery enough since he chose to resurrect it nearly intact from its grave.
Supervisor Yaroslavsky and other members of the Board insist that it’s about managing their time, if that’s the case then they need to first take steps to start on time, and to move all the puffery to another day or at least limit it to fifteen minutes. And if you actually watch the Board you’d notice that the average meeting ends somewhere around 1:00 pm or 2:00 pm – so do the math last week’s meeting started almost 45 minutes late, they then held over one hour of commendations and whatnot, leaving just over three hours to conduct the business of the people. No wonder they bristle when people ask to address items on the agenda because those three minutes eat into their rush to return to their lofty perch (where members of the public must wrangle an appointment to have the privilege to cross the threshold) on the 8th Floor.
It’s a rare day that more than a handful of people take the time to trek down to the Hall of Administration to address the Board on any subject matter, but I guess they want to nip in the bud any desire for more public involvement – because we can’t let the people get the silly notion that they can actually influence their elected officials. God forbid!