My thanks to the San Diego Occupiers who attended the City Council meeting on October 25th, to abbajerry for the video and Rocky Neptun for his commentary. The mic check and call for a resolution at the morning meeting was truly thrilling! Although I was not present at the meeting I did watch the two non agenda item public comment segments that are available in the City’s online video archive (the opening credit incorrectly displays Monday’s date of October 24th). The last comment period came at the end of the 4 hour session, late in the afternoon. I applaud the dozen or so occupiers who stayed there in order to provide public testimony on behalf of the movement.
I frankly couldn’t understand why Council President Tony Young kept asking the occupiers to address the council on a subject other than Occupy San Diego, when that was obviously why they were there to speak. Why were the occupiers essentially required to chop up and dilute their message? And why did Tony Young patiently encourage them to do that in order to ultimately be heard? I called the City Clerk’s office this morning for a civics lesson about the rules that apply to non-agenda item comments.
The city’s administrative code does indeed cover areas pertinent to yesterday’s situation. Speakers are limited to three minutes each and comments are limited to three minutes per subject regardless of the number of people in attendance. These comments should also pertain to something of interest to the public which is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Council. Now I understood why Young was urging commenters to define their subject as something other than OccupySD, which had already received a three minute allocation of time earlier that morning.
The other pertinent section of the code is “No discussion or action on any matter of non-agenda public comment shall be permitted. Any matter properly raised under this Rule may, if appropriate, be referred by the President to the appropriate Committee for consideration.” “Endorse now!” was clearly not going to happen. I called Young’s office to find out whether he had referred the OccupySD request for a resolution like Los Angeles’ to a committee, which the code clearly authorizes him to do.
Young’s communications director Jill Esterbrooks answered my call. Jill said that Young had not referred the resolution to a committee at this time and asked to which committee it should be referred. I was stumped, but said that LA’s resolution addressed the issue of banks since so many people are being foreclosed upon. Then we talked about what I saw as Tony Young’s dilemma as Council President.
It was clear to me that he wanted to give people a chance to speak within the parameters of the administrative code, yet it forced the council to essentially ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room which was the significant presence of Occupy San Diego supporters. It also forced the occupiers to shape their comments in a way that they were unwilling or unprepared to do. Jill assured me that the sheer number of people did not escape note even if everyone was not given an opportunity to speak. She remarked that there is still a vagueness in her mind about what occupiers want and she reiterated Young’s comment at the meeting that the occupiers should address specific agenda items that are pertinent to provide clarity.
Passage of a resolution would be a good indicator of the responsiveness of our elected representatives to a movement which is not going away any time soon. I personally suggest that OccupySD draft the specific language of the resolution, if they have not already done so, rather than leaving it up to the council. It will never get referred to committee in the form of a LA resolution. It is vital to craft a resolution that is specific to our own circumstances and vision and if we want to be taken seriously on this particular issue.