Friday, June 27, 2014

Adios, Free Speech - The Dictator Has Spoken!

Next Tuesday evening, July 1st, very near the end of the scheduled City Council meeting, the Costa Mesa City Council will be asked to consider replacing an existing section of the Municipal Code - section 2-61, Propriety of conduct while addressing the council, with a completely new version of this ordinance titled Conduct While Addressing The Council.

The lengthy staff report, HERE, outlines why the contract legal council, to which we pay outlandish fees, think this is necessary.  They use as a reference point the Benito Acosta affair in which then-mayor Allan Mansoor  cut his presentation off at 2:25 and had him dragged from the council chambers because he wanted to finish his allotted three minutes.  It's been nearly a decade since that event and, based on what this new ordinance says, it looks like we've learned NOTHING!  And we're still paying, literally, for it to this date.  References are made on almost every Warrant the council approves for charges for "Acosta Appeal", or similar entries.  Ironically, the Warrant included in the Consent Calendar of this meeting staff report does NOT include an Acosta reference.

I've written many times in this space about the heavy-handedness of the current council majority and, more specifically, Mayor Jim Righeimer when it comes to stifling dissent.  He's manipulated the agenda to quash public comments by forcing folks to wait until the very end of the meeting - sometimes well after midnight - to step to the podium to address valid concerns with the elected leaders of this city.  He frequently interrupts speakers, including fellow-councilmembers, during their specified time, which certainly breaks their thoughts and diminishes their presentations.  Fortunately, Sandra Genis and Wendy Leece refuse to let him bully them.

This new ordinance, if passed as it is written, provides the authority to the mayor to bludgeon speakers into submission and to abridge their right of free speech.  If the council follows this advice it will be like funding a retirement annuity for Orange County lawyers, who we will have to pay to defend actions based on this bogus ordinance for decades to come!

I can see it now... "Stop talking!  Somebody else already said something like that!"  "Shut up, or else!"  "Sir, please leave the chambers, now!"  "Officer, please escort that person from the council chambers!"  "Sir, I told you to leave and now you've returned!  Officer, please arrest that person for violation of Section 2-61, b (8) of the Costa Mesa Municipal Code - being repetitive!"

I've copied and pasted the text of much of this proposed new section of the Municipal Code below.  Take a couple minutes to review it.  I've highlighted some of the sections I think are going to be problematic in bold red for ease of reading.

In my view, perhaps the most egregious item on this list - one that could end up with a speaker being charged with a misdemeanor if carried to the extreme, is number 8.  This item describes an act of disorderly behavior as, "Continuing to speak after being informed by the presiding officer that the comments are unduly repetitive of either prior comments from that speaker or comments by other speakers."  So, the mayor gets to decide whether your comments - the product of your own thought processes and passions - are "unduly repetitive" of comments made by other speakers?  Really?  This item, alone, tells me that we've learned nothing from the Benito Acosta affair.

I suspect some of you may find other elements of this proposed section of the Municipal Code troubling, too.  To me it clearly demonstrates that the mayor will stop at nothing to clamp down on opposing views, including violating the right of free speech.


2-61 Conduct while addressing the council.

(a) Any person who engages in disorderly behavior that actually disrupts,
disturbs or otherwise impedes the orderly conduct of any city council
 meeting shall, upon an order by the presiding officer or a majority of the
city council, be barred from further audience before the city council during
that meeting, pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (c), below.

(b) Disorderly behavior under subdivision (a) may include, but is not limited to,
the following:

(1) Speaking without being recognized by the presiding officer.

(2) Yelling, or using a loud, disturbing voice.

(3) Using profanity or obscene gestures.

(4) Continuing to speak after the allotted time has expired.

(5) Speaking on an item at a time not designated for discussion by the
public of that item.

(6) Throwing objects.

(7) Speaking on an issue that is not within the jurisdiction of the city

(8) Continuing to speak after being informed by the presiding officer
that the comments are unduly repetitive of either prior comments
from that speaker or comments by other speakers.

(9) Attempting to engage the audience rather than the City Council.

(10) Disobeying any lawful order of the presiding officer or a majority of
the city council.

(11) Refusing to modify conduct after being advised by the presiding
officer that the conduct is disrupting the meeting.

(c) Enforcement. The rules of conduct while addressing the city council set
forth above shall be enforced in the following manner:

(1) Call to order and warning to desist. Whenever practicable, the
presiding officer or a majority of the city council shall give a warning
to the person who is breaching the rules of conduct to be orderly
and to comply with the rules of conduct hereunder. Such a warning
 shall articulate the rule of conduct being violated and the manner in
which the person must comply.

A warning shall not be necessary when it would not be effective
under the circumstances, including when, but not limited to, the
disturbance is such that the warning cannot be heard above the
noise, or the conduct of the person or persons constitutes an
immediate threat to public safety, such as the throwing of objects or
specific threats of harm and the apparent, present ability to carry
out such threats. A warning shall also not be necessary when an
individual violates the rules of conduct more than once during a
council meeting, or continuously violates the rules of conduct
council meeting after council meeting.

(2) Order barring person from meeting. A person who engages in
disorderly behavior shall be barred from the remainder of that
council meeting by the presiding officer or a majority of the city
council when that person: (i) continues the disorderly behavior after
receiving a warning pursuant to subdivision (c)(1); (ii) ceases the
disorderly behavior upon receiving a warning pursuant to
subdivision (c)(1), but later in the same council meeting resumes
such disorderly behavior; or (iii) engages in disorderly behavior and
no warning is practicable under the circumstances, pursuant to
subdivision (c)(1).

The continuation of disorderly behavior after receiving a warning,
repeated disorderly behavior during a council meeting, disorderly
behavior at council meeting after council meeting, or disorderly
behavior that is so significant that a warning cannot be given,
constitutes the type of behavior that actually disrupts, disturbs or
otherwise impedes the orderly conduct of a city council meeting.
(3) Removal. If the person barred from the meeting does not voluntarily
remove him/herself upon being instructed to do so by the presiding
officer or a majority of the city council, the presiding officer or the
majority of the city council may direct the sergeant-at-arms to
remove that person from the council chambers.

(d) The following conduct shall be unlawful and shall be punishable as a

(1) Continuing to engage in disorderly conduct, which disrupts, disturbs
or otherwise impedes the orderly conduct of any city council
meeting, after receiving a warning pursuant to subdivision (c)(1) of
this section.

(2) Refusing to leave a city council meeting after being directed to do
so pursuant to subdivision (c)(2) of this section.

(3) Returning to a council meeting after being barred, removed or
directed to leave such meeting pursuant to subdivisions (c)(2) and
(c)(3) of this section. 

As the mayor continues to steamroll over our rights, I suspect there may be one or two of you who feel strongly enough about this to step to the speaker's podium Tuesday evening to address it with the council.  Keep in mind that it's not the law yet, and the old ordinance had the word "insolent" removed from it because that was a problem.  So, I guess you can be insolent if you wish - I don't recommend it, though.  And, I certainly don't recommend you echo resident Tim Lewis from the last council meeting.  Otherwise, just tell them how you feel.

And now, Benito Acosta, Allan Mansoor, and former Police Chief John Hensley reprise their roles in this video clip.  As an aside, look for Tea Partier Phil Morello, bellowing at the top of his lungs at the very end of the clip.  It's always a pleasure...

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Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

You know what sucks? There really isn't anything that can be done about this since they hold the majority and it's obvious how they will vote. How is this even legal? It's really amazing the egos that sit up there.

6/27/2014 06:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

"Mussolini became the youngest Prime Minister in Italian history, and he secured the powers of a dictator for a year, using it to secure the Fascists in parliament. He then won a dubious election in 1924, aided by the desperation of Italians who believed a strong leader would solve Italy’s problems. A one party state was established, with opposition crushed – sometimes murdered - and free speech halted."

6/27/2014 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

This is what happens when real Republicans don't stand up to extremists in their own party.
Patsies like Monahan, Bever, and Ramos are recruited to follow outsiders and do what they're told.

Scott Walker was here in 2011, the Koch brothers on 6/14/14.

Das Rigmarshal isn't here for the benefit of Costa Mesa.

6/27/2014 06:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

The charter hasn't been passed yet and the czar is acting like he's the king already. Can anyone say "class action"? Our city is about to be taken over.

6/27/2014 06:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

Oh, the irony! The mayor is guilty of all that he seeks to control. He speaks too long, too loudly, about things that are beyond the control of the council (CalPERS), addressing an issue ad nauseum (Charter) and being rude (too many things pick only one). Who muzzles that little rat terrier? There should be a "goose/gander" clause in there.

Sounds to me like a call to Kamala Harris' office and some civil disobedience are in order here.

6/27/2014 08:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Will the ordinance be applied to those who agree with Jim, or only those who oppose him? I see a whole parade of potential lawsuits.

6/27/2014 08:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Casual Viewer wrote:
"Will the ordinance be applied to those who agree with Jim, or only those who oppose him? I see a whole parade of potential lawsuits."

Of course! We must take care of Jimbo's lawyer contributors by having more litigation.

6/27/2014 08:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

Let me see...If I want to get arrested in the council chambers, all I have to do is get up there and speak only Swedish until I am warned that my conduct is disruptive...So I guess then I can switch to Russian until I am warned again...I will make sure that I only speak English during my arrest though...I wonder if I will be allowed to post bail in Costa Mesa,or do you suppose I will be transferred to OC Jail and get lost in there for a year...
Well that will be much better than a federal prison...When the FBI charges politicians with crimes, the are tried in federal courts...I have heard that Danbury is a nice prison...But CT is so far away, and cold in the winter months..
I would think that The United States Penitentiary, Victorville would be a better place...You are allowed 2 minutes to address the warden there, before you go to the hole..Only problem...The change from beach weather to desert weather...

6/27/2014 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

Casual Viewer - good question, but not relevant, as there aren't typically very many council supporters speaking at the meeting. Hopefully that's a sign of what's to come in November.

Spread the word, people - we are not, in fact, moving forward. The brand is NOT strong.

6/27/2014 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

I received this message from someone identified only as Anonymous. It's self-explanatory. ***I know you won't post this because I haven't registered with you, but I hope that any police officer that works a meeting where the mayor demands an arrest refuses to accept the arrest by stating,"Mr Mayor, I will not make an arrest for a violation of a law that I believe clearly violates the United States Constitution. I swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and I plan on upholding that oath until I retire."***

6/27/2014 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Gericault said...

Being "Insolent" is a Costa Mesa protected RIGHT. The City already spent a lot of hard earned Taxdollars to fight it, but we won.

I'm bringing my toothbrush to future Council Meetings...I might be spending the night next door.

6/27/2014 10:26:00 AM  
Anonymous David on Lorenzo said...

So this is what our city staff does all day? I can't even get my parkway tree trimmed! Costa Mesa definitely needs a new CEO.

6/27/2014 11:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Dumb Biker said...

Exactly where are those cowardly hypocrites CMTax and the teabaggers hiding and being silent on this outrageous overreach of government? This is what they preach against but I guess it's better to be known as a kiss ass than a Patriot.

6/27/2014 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

@Ken - Politicians who go up the river usually don't do time locally. Mike Carona is doing his time in FCI Englewood, Colorado. But the former mayor of Upland went to Kern County. Maybe because he pled guilty. He just got out three months ago.

6/27/2014 01:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Muffin Top Bob said...

Riggy and his 2 stooges are so afraid of criticism that they make up some BS rules that will allow them to have people thrown out or arrested for disagreeing with their crooked ways. What a bunch of cowards.

6/27/2014 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Atlas Shrunk said...

In my opinion, while the presiding officer can, and should, preside at the meeting in such a way as to ensure orderly conduct and decorum so that the public's business can be conducted, this proposed ordinance leaves too much up to the instant discretion of the presiding officer.
Public meetings are formal affairs where the participants should conduct themselves politely and with some sign of respect for the other participants. The council, the city manager (or CEO), the presiding officer, and public all have important roles to play in accomplishing the public's business.
If all members of the public and the council consistently adhered to the principles of orderly respectful communication we learned (or should have) in childhood [speak when it is your turn, don't interrupt someone speaking except for an emergency, listen with an intent to understand and empathize with the speaker's perspective (walk a mile in another's moccasins) and refrain from profanity (there are always better ways of expressing oneself and using profanity is just lazy)] this ordinance would be unnecessary.
Civil disobedience is a valid, and established method of communication to be used sparingly (else its impact will be diluted) and when other methods have failed.
Good luck everyone

6/27/2014 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous CM Resident said...

Did anyone actually read the staff report? This is the result of a court ruling, and the proposed ordinance has been reviewed by both the city's attorney in the lawsuit and the ACLU attorney in the lawsuit. Question why staff didn't report what those attorneys thought of this proposed ordinance.

Riggy didn't come up with this. Nice try, though!

6/27/2014 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger Flo Martin said...

I recall from the last council meeting, some six to seven young "professionals" speaking in support of the proposed high-density community bordering Superior Ave. Now, they were, IMHO, very, very, very, very, very, very repetitive. Would El Duce stop them in their tracks?

6/27/2014 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

CM Resident-
Per the last paragraph on Pg. 2.

'City council meetings are limited public forums, White v. Norwalk, 900 F.2d 1421 (9th Cir. 1990), and the Council may adopt regulations related to the conduct at the meetings that are reasonable for the purpose of the forum and viewpoint neutral. Norse v. City of Santa Cruz, 629 F.3d 966 (9th Cir. 2010). It is therefore with this analytical framework in mind, and the ruling in the Acosta v. City of Costa Mesa case, that the City Attorney’s Office drafted the attached proposed ordinance'.

-Nice try yourself, CC.

Righeimer continues to prove that he acts and rules like a dictator.
The only bright side to this mess is every time he abuses his authority and power, his opposition grows.

Remember in NOvember.

6/27/2014 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Correction- Not -Concerned Citizen
---CM Resident


6/27/2014 08:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

Having read this code change so many times, I figure I would like to be the first one arrested at a council meeting, so I can have subpoena power, and lots and lots of discovery..

Everything is based on how you act and what comes out of your mouth to be arrested for...What I have to say, will have an instant reaction...

I decided to move out of Orange County last November after a phone call I received one Wednesday after a Tuesday council meeting from an FBI friend suggesting it might be a good idea...We were gone in 48 hours...

I have only made two trips to Costa Mesa since then, and that was to visit my dying father-in-law in a hospice, (now deceased) and to meet up with a local politician, and attend a Costa Mesa Council meeting regarding the Sandpiper..

My bodyguards will definitely start a buzz in the council chambers..
They are not your average bear...

My bail bondsman will be there as well I am sure, if anybody has the balls to arrest me...

Has anyone seen the Distinguished Gentleman with Eddie Murphy...It's worth a watch...

6/27/2014 09:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Can you imagine the outcry and marches and displays of civil disobedience at city hall if there ever is anyone arrested? Rig would have more bad press than he ever thought possible and I don't believe that's what he wants. The $$it storm would fall squarely on his shoulders. He'd look like the fool that he is.

That's the problem with this guy. He only sees as far as the end of his nose. He doesn't realize the far reaching consequences that will follow. Not to mention the lawsuit against him.

6/28/2014 05:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

How about a municipal code for council conduct - council members are to refrain from the following; texting during the meeting, making sarcastic remarks to citizens addressing the council, interrupting other council members when they have the floor, and not being unduly repetitive (Jim).

6/28/2014 06:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

WMC re Riggy:
"He only sees as far as the end of his nose."

One word: "Rignoccio."

6/28/2014 08:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

Pot Stirrer: The cop could require the Mayor to make a citizen's arrest before taking the speaker into custody. Then the cop can write a "ticket" (promise to appear)and release the person from custody.

The Mayor would then have to appear and testify, or the citation would be dismissed. If the arrestee sues for false arrest, violation of civil rights, etc., it would be the Mayor, not the cop, who would be subject to liability for damages.

I would hope the Mayor would think twice before taking such a step.

6/28/2014 11:19:00 AM  

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