If the new rules for speakers at the City Council town hall meetings were supposed to take the yell out of the yell-fest held once a month by the Greensboro City Council, then the rules failed.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan read the revised new rules at the beginning of the City Council town hall meeting on Monday, Nov. 4 at the Marylene Griffin Recreation Center. The official version is much longer but in effect speakers are not allowed to speak about items where the city is involved in litigation, advocate breaking the law or verbally attack particular city employees.
The main effect the new rules appeared to have was that speakers complained about the rules before violating them.
Speakers acted as if speech at City Council meetings had not been limited before the new rules. When speakers were allowed at the beginning of every City Council meeting, they were limited to three minutes on “non-agenda items,” which meant that speakers were not allowed to speak about any item that the City Council was considering at that meeting. They could speak about the item when it came up on the agenda, but that often meant they would have to wait three or four hours to speak, something some speakers didn’t want to do.
No one ever said that not being able to speak about agenda items during “speakers from the floor” was unconstitutional. Nor did they complain that having their speeches limited to three minutes was unconstitutional. But at the past two meetings speakers have complained that “limiting” their speech was unconstitutional.
If someone is looking for a case to take to court to challenge the constitutionality of the new rules then this meeting didn’t provide much because Vaughan read the rules at the beginning of the meeting but there was no real attempt to enforce them. Vaughan did remind speakers of the rules several times, but their microphone was not cut off and there was no attempt to have them removed from the meeting when they proceeded to violate the rules.
Lewis Pitts said that the new rules were clearly unconstitutional and that he planned to violate them and then he did exactly what he said he was going to do and there were no sanctions.