The final days of Mayor Layne Baroldi's mayorship and council term saw a dramatic escalation in the 2 year old, what has been described as, a "War" or "Crackdown" on Residents.
Councilmember Vipperman refers to "War on Volunteers"
Below are three incidents from the final days.
At the March 14, 2011 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, without discussion or agendizement, Chair Vipperman announced that Public Comments on matters not on the agenda had been moved from the beginning of meetings to the end of the meetings and would neither be videotaped nor broadcast.
Chair Vipperman referred to disruption and profanity during public comments at the February P&R meeting .
At the February Parks and Recreation meeting, a resident speaking during public comments was continually interrupted and spoken over by Commission members, and was unable to finish his comments.
That segment can be seen on YouTube here. The City broadcast the meeting for only a few days before removing it from cable. YouTube is the only place to see it.
Chair Vipperman, who was not present at the beginning of the February meeting, entered the room and said, "I've been sitting in the car because I didn't want to watch Public Comments."
While City officials were ostensibly preparing for an upbeat playground opening on March 17th, a major Raid on a Heights Animal keeping family to execute a Search Warrant was going down.
The Search Warrant authorized forcible entry without prior notice to the family, for purposes of determining if there were too many animals, unauthorized animal related businesses, and improper handling of animal waste.
The Raid involved at least thirteen individuals and seven vehicles including:
- Building Inspector
- Public Works Manager
- City Planner
- Deputy City Clerk
- Contract Worker
- City Prosecutor
- Two Animal Control
- Four Deputies
- Two City Vehicles
- Three Sheriff Vehicles
- Animal Control Vehicle
- Locksmith Vehicle
A reading of the five page Search Warrant is chilling in the measures available to the City to invade private property , and the circumstances under which it was authorized.
In an open letter to the community, Aida Lough said:
"Folks if you have a farm or animals in LHH you are at risk, please be careful"
Questions remain if the number of people and use of resources, when the City has stated it is short of money, was appropriate and proportional to the alleged offenses.
Newly elected Council Member Roy Francis was the unintended first victim of Mayor Layne Baroldi and the newly installed "Kill Switch" for the podium microphone at City Hall.
The Kill Switch allows the Mayor, or Commission Chair to mute the microphone of a speaker at the public podium.
In recent months, the Mayor and a Commission Chair called for the microphone to be shut off on speakers who were saying nothing wrong, but apparently not what the City Officials wanted to hear, and there was no means to turn the microphone off.
At the February 10, 2011 City Council Meeting, resident George Edwards was commenting on assault and battery committed against him by members of the La Habra Heights Improvement Association, when Mayor Baroldi interrupted him and threatened to shut off the microphone.
At the February 7, 2011 Parks and Recreation meeting, acting Chair Grimm repeatedly called for the microphone to be turned off on a public speaker.
Whether the Crackdown will be reversed by the new Council, maintained, or increased remains to be seen.
New Mayor Brian Bergman made a point of saying in his first remarks that he wants open and transparent government, as has newly elected Councilmember Roy Francis who made it a focus of his campaign.
The Councils' efforts to silence speech are contrary to 1st Amendment Rights reflected in a 2010 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case regarding comments at a City Council meeting (No. 07-15814. - NORSE v. CITY OF SANTA CRUZ).
Chief Judge Kozinski wrote. "But, unlike der Führer, government officials in America occasionally must tolerate offensive or irritating speech."
In that case, City Officials tried to claim immunity from their actions of silencing the speaker, claiming the speaker's behavior was disruptive, and the speaker being arrested.
However, Judge Sidney Thomas wrote: "The fact that a city may impose reasonable time limitations on speech does not mean it can transform the nature of the forum by doing so, much less extinguish all First Amendment rights," "A limited public forum is a limited public forum. Perhaps nothing more, but certainly nothing less. The city's theory would turn the entire concept on its head."
Judge Kozinski also wrote, "The Supreme Court long ago explained that in our system, undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression. Even in a limited public forum like a city council meeting, the First Amendment tightly constrains the governments power; speakers may be removed only if they are actually disruptive. "
Listeners reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation. . . . Speech cannot be . . . punished or banned simply because it might offend a hostile member of the Santa Cruz City Council. The council members should have known that the government may never suppress viewpoints it doesnt like." " Though defendants point to Norses reaction to Councilman Fitzmaurice as the disruption that warranted carting him off to jail, Norses calm assertion of his constitutional rights was not the least bit disruptive."
"Even viewing the facts most favorably to the city council members, their behavior amounts to classic viewpoint discrimination for which theyre not entitled to qualified immunity."