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Bad Behavior at Public Meetings: Demagoguery vs. Democracy

Richmond City Council has had it with foul-mouthed hecklers at its public meetings. The council votes July 15 on a proposal to ban disruptive speakers for six months. At present, policy is simply to remove loudmouths from the meeting in progress.

"Allowing a handful of troublemakers to take control of public meetings has consequences beyond just inappropriately insulting elected officials," writes San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson (June 20). "This kind of behavior is the antithesis of free speech and expression -- it's a toxic practice that thwarts the democratic process...it discourages public participation, the very essence of democratic rule. People stop listening and watching, and soon enough they might stop caring altogether."

Anyone who has watched the freak show at Pacifica City Council "oral communications" (sounds like a dental procedure!) over the years should appreciate what Richmond proposes to protect democracy from demagogues. Take a hint, Pacifica City Council. Stand up to bullies.

John Maybury, Editor & Publisher

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It will be interesting to see how the vote goes on July 1. If it passes, our city absolutely should look into something similar.

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