Editorial: Just what we need, more rules

Editorial: Just what we need, more rules

Michael Gold, Editor
St Augustine, FL

The commissioners of the St Augustine City Commission can be accused of many, many things — not having enough rules and regulations is not one of them.

Selective enforcement of existing rules is not an argument for making more rules; particularly when those rules are designed to limit the public’s ability to express themselves directly to their elected representatives, or their constitutional right to petition for a governmental redress of grievances.

Under the pretext of “decorum”, some commissioners, led by Nancy Sikes-Kline, feel the need to oppress public participation, stifle criticism of our elected public officials, and generally hold public figures accountable to the public.

Sikes-Kline will regularly yammer for fifteen minutes after an issue has already been decided, apparently feeling the need to educate us on what just happened. Personally, I do not feel the need to have a one-trick-pony explain to me what I just observed for myself.

Likewise, this commission, particularly Sikes-Kline, is notorious for making irrelevant, repetitive, personal, impertinent or slanderous comments to each other and toward named and unnamed citizens in the community. Do they propose to enforce this resolution against themselves?

The first four proposed new commandments essentially say the same thing — the Mayor, who chairs commission meetings, is supposed to maintain decorum and order in the public meeting. Speaking out of turn, shouting from the audience, approaching the podium or dais without first being recognized by the chairman to do so, and directing questions (which are not required to be answered) to anyone other than the chairman, are all matters of Parliamentary procedure which already exist. No further resolution is necessary.

Further, if Miss Manners gets her resolution approved, the consequences of a breach of “decorum” are that the Mayor MAY gavel the violator “out of order”. Again, a matter of Parliamentary procedure which already exist. No further resolution is necessary.

Florida Statutes Chapter 871.01, already exists as a matter of law. It exists to prohibit disruptions at any school, or any assembly of people met for the worship of God, or broadly for any lawful purpose. It is the law that makes criminal the interruption or disturbance of military funeral honors. Both my mother and father were military officers, each received military honors at their funeral.

I am afraid that I don’t equate the decorum of a meeting of politicians, with the decorum of a military funeral. But, if passed, this resolution makes identified disturbances a misdemeanor of the second degree.

I predict that this resolution will not pass muster, but if it does, I also predict the city will defend yet another civil lawsuit upon the first attempt to enforce it … even if that means that Historic City News has to advance the legal fees ourselves.

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