Bending the Rules at City Council
Slightly frustrated by being sidelined by Ann Arbor City Council rules, this writer used a tenuous connection to play by the rules, yet get a point across. Readers remember the vigil report of Nov. 16 when my talk exposing the blacklisting of companies by MasterCard was delayed. This week’s talk presented Council members with a short stroll down memory lane, capped by a request to allow more speech during Public Commentary. For a video of the talk, click here and advance to 00:19:40. Comments to Council appear after signature.
Kevin Barrett – Truth Jihad Radio
A tip of the hat to Vigiler L, whose contact with Dr. Kevin Barrett – editor of Veterans Today – produced a one-hour phone interview about our weekly vigils and other related topics. Kevin shares our exchange he calls: “Zionism & Jewishness: Henry Herskovitz asks the hard questions _ on Kevin Barrett’s Truth Jihad Radio” with us.
Tell us why Israel has a “right” to exist
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends
Ann Arbor City Council meeting, Public Commentary
December 2, 2013 [399 words]
I’m here tonight to speak to Council about an actual agenda item, number DC-1, “Resolution to Establish 2014 Council Calendar”. And I would hope that Council, as it adopts its calendar for next year, will consider reversing a decision it made approximately ten years ago.
That decision was to not only reduce public commentary time from four to three minutes in length, but to preference speakers addressing agenda items, and “bump” speakers who wished to address Council on a matter of public concern, but not on the agenda.
This change in rules came about due to pressure exerted by then 2nd Ward Representative Joan Lowenstein, around 2004. It was very clear that Ms. Lowenstein, a member of Beth Israel Congregation –also located in the 2nd Ward – did not like topics relating to Israel being discussed. She frequently turned her back on speakers, and once left the room entirely while I was addressing Council.
So it’s not too much of a stretch to assume that Council passed this rule in reaction to pressure from Lowenstein, and that perhaps she even worked to make sure topics involving Israel never appeared on the agenda.
Last month I wanted to address Council on a matter of public concern: the blacklisting of companies by MasterCard, and though I was placed on the speakers’ list at 8 AM, by noon I was bumped to the eleventh spot, and was not called to speak. This is not the first time this has happened.
So I appeal to this body … paid members serving the public, to allow all topics equal footing during Public Commentary time. You are all sworn to uphold the Constitution, and with it, citizens’ rights to address their governing body on issues of concern. Trying to legislate which topic items are allowable and which are not flies in the face of a free society.
Council is considering a resolution which will ask the Rules Committee to draft appropriate professional standards of conduct for Council members. And I hope that this draft will align itself closely to our most precious Constitutional right, that of free speech.
Now, I can manipulate the existing guidelines to say what I want, but I would rather take the front door to address Council on items of public concern. Respect is a two-way street; allowing citizens to address this body on any topic is a reflection of that respect.