Occupy San Diego, Public Comments and Tony Young’s Dilemma

by on October 26, 2011 · 7 comments

in Civil Rights, San Diego

City council President tony Young as he listens to San Diego Occupier Michelle Deutsch. Photo by Rocky Neptun

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.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephen D. Smith October 26, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Yes, you are right to point out the importance of drafting a proper resolution. I was at the session that was preemptorily adjourned.

I later called Young’s office to get some clarification as well. I was told I would receive a return call from the appropriate person today but as yet have heard from no one.

It will be necessary to play by at least some of their rules to be heard. The goal is to get them to recognize the movement and allow it to remain as a presence in the Hall Square.

Hopefully someone in Legal is drafting a proposal.

Steve Smith


annagrace October 27, 2011 at 11:01 am

Steve-Good news that Legal is drafting a proposal. I personally feel that it is important to be specific about what you want in the resolution. I hope you will post the final copy on the OBrag. We can call and email Tony Young and the other council members and attend more council meetings to assure that it gets referred to a committee and moves forward in a timely manner.
About 2/3 of the LA resolution addresses the general issue of income equality in the country and the financial and societal impacts; the final third talks about a Responsible Banking Program. If Occupy SD is also looking a banking issues, you may want to consider the fact that city of San Diego budget for this fiscal year anticipates $1.1 BILLION in revenues. That money is kept in Bank of America, which of course received TARP bailout funds, is a leading forcloser on homes and thinks a $5/month debit card use fee is ok.


Frank Gormlie October 27, 2011 at 11:23 am

anna and steve – “Legal” is the Legal Committee? If so, I do know of any effort of our legal committee in drafting anything. There was an attempt at the GA on Tuesday night to set up a ‘working group’ to form a negotiating committee with the Mayor and Council, but it was overwhelmed by other issues – such as the tents that went up that night.


Stephen D. Smith October 27, 2011 at 12:46 pm

HI, I did NOT mean to imply that I knew of any “legal” resolution being prepared. I do not!

I said I thought someone should prepare one.

I called Tony Young’s office again today after leaving a message for one of his staff, Deanna, who was suppose to call me back yesterday. She evidently has the job of writing down what has been accepted to be on the agenda. She is out sick and will be back tomorrow.

I spoke to another lady who checked the docket and said our issue is NOT on the list for at least the next two weeks.

That must mean that everything that took place at the council meeting Tues, our mike check statement, the ensuing disruption of the meeting, and the walkout by the President and his members was not successful in getting our issue on the agenda or docket.

I then left a message for Tony Young asking that he return my call. If he does, I will ask him what we have to legally accomplish to get our issue on the agenda.

Thanks, Anna. Thanks, Frank, for your service here in bringing us the OBRag. I met you with Michael at the first major march, Oct. 7.

Steve Smith


lane tobias October 27, 2011 at 11:37 pm

i was moved by the actions of OccupySD in the city council meeting. Tony Young could have done a little bit more to explain the rules most likely, but had to toe the line between alienating those on the council and hearing out the multitude of occupiers in attendance. kudos for all of the above, especially your explanation anna.

I don’t know if there is anything more powerful in a public forum than a crowd overpowering the folks trying to run a meeting that at this time, in this place, is inconsequential to most. i think more and more, politicians and such will begin bending backwards to accommodate this movement. whether that is a good or a bad thing in terms of keeping things going remains to be seen I guess, but still.


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