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The Port Comes to Maytown: 1st Amendment Abridged

The latest casualty of Port Commissioners' public prohibitions is the right to free speech.

On September 24th, three citizens asked to run a video clip on the Port's TV screen while they delivered their oral comments from the lectern. After much hemming and hawing all around the central question, the Commissioners decided that they would not allow anything to be shown in public without their first viewing it privately to make sure it was OK. The three citizens considered this a denial of their right to free speech and declined to accede to the requirement of having their material pre-screened as a condition to presentation.

Commissioner Bill McGregor was afraid that "...somebody wanting to put a CD up there and then narrate what’s being shown in some respects could open a Pandora’s box of what’s on it."

Commissioner Bob VanSchoorl told us that "The purpose of public comment is for somebody to stand up at the microphone and make some comments on items, uh. It's a slippery slope when we all of a sudden open ourselves up to a broad range of multi-media presentations ..."

What are the Commissioners afraid of? Other government jurisdictions do it. Perhaps they have less reason to be afraid of their constituents.

On October 8th, three citizens renewed their request to use the same presentation equipment available to the Port staff, other public officials and a continuous parade of people representing groups with private business interests. Again they were denied, being told that "It is inappropriate to think that the public is in the same category as port staff or anyone else that the Port may place on a meeting agenda to present or discuss matters relating to specific port business under consideration or review at the time." The Commissioners apparently forgot that the public is indeed always on the agenda under the item PUBLIC COMMENTS and in this instance had not asked for anything beyond their standard 3 minutes per person allotment of time.

On October 22nd (today), three citizens again will ask to be treated with the same respect and given the same access to the same tools of expression as all others appearing before the Commission.

The public dialog between dais and lectern extends beyond the adjournment gavel into a private thread of email exchanges. The details of this continuing conversation among censored commentors and videophobic Commissioners will be posted shortly.

Here is an embellishment of the first video clip that so concerned the Commissioners that they were afraid to air it without prior approval and instead opted to violate the First Amendment.

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