A letter to the City Council from my pal Oscar Merlo:
QUESTIONS FOR CITY COUNCIL
On Thursday’s meeting I witnessed some disturbing Orwellian behavior from the City Council. As Mr. Roy Wiegand was stepping up to speak, he was denied the podium on the pretense that he already spoke because another citizen had used their public speaking time to play a video clip in which Roy was featured.
The mayor has argued that when Citizen A (not Mike or Roy) uses his/her public speaking minutes to show a media clip of the Mike and Roy Show, that clip counts not for Citizen A who filled out the yellow card, but instead for Mike or Roy, since they are the ones featured on the clip that Citizen A presented to council.
This argument raises some serious questions.
Question 1: If the media clip is being counted as Mike and/or Roy’s speaking time, does it also count as Citizen’s A’s speaking time? Can Citizen A still use his/her 3 minutes? Last Thursday, Mayor Gabel-Luddy, unilaterally decided that what counts is not the name of the person on the card requesting the speaking time, but the person who is featured on the media clip presented by that person.
Question 2: If Citizen A, not knowing Mike or Roy, decides to play a video of the Mike and Roy Show without Mike or Roy’s knowledge or consent; does Citizen A’s decision eliminate Mike and Roy’s right to address the Council during the same meeting? The mayor’s argument says that it does. Her new rule will allow one citizen to take away another’s citizen’s right to free speech. Is this really what City Council is advocating? While City Council may be comfortable diminishing and negating Mike and Roy’s right to free speech, are they prepared to apply this new rule equitably for all Burbank citizens? It seems to me that there is a constitutional dilemma here that needs to be addressed.
Question 3: If Citizen A shows a video of the Mike and Roy Show during public comment and then Citizen B decides to use their three minutes to play another Mike and Roy Show video, what happens if a third person, Citizen C, also wants to play an episode of the Mike and Roy Show? Would they be allowed to do so? Or would Citizen C be prevented from showing the clip because Mike and Roy have already accumulated their collective six minutes? If we use the Mayor’s logic, Citizen C’s right to show a video clip would have to be denied on the grounds that Mike and Roy had already spoken. Wouldn’t that deny Citizen C’s right to free to speech?
It is my understanding that the any member of the public has the freedom to address the council on any issue. I’ve been to many meetings where members of the public, not just Mike and Roy, have used video clips and multi-media presentations as their form of public comment. And I hope that the City Council will continue to allow them to do so. After all, it’s a form of protected speech.
Every citizen in Burbank has the right to show whatever media they feel best conveys their message, regardless of who is featured in that video. Is City Council really willing to infringe upon the free speech rights of Burbank citizens just because they find Mr. Wiegand and Mr. Moynahan irritating?
I will also be sending a copy of this email to the City Manager and the City Attorney, and I am expecting a written response to my questions from the City. Please also consider this a formal request to have the use of media during the public comment clearly explained in writing for the citizens of Burbank.