Vice Mayor Dan Baker has told Stop Taking Our Parks president Gigi "Fast Elk" Porter that he will let her (and collectively, the appellants) and city staff use the Council chamber's audio visual equipment at a July 17 Council hearing on whether to take 2.5 acres of Scherer Park land for a LB north division police station.
Ms. Porter, along with Ann Cantrell and Don May, are the appellants in the hearing, having filed formal appeals of the Planning Commission's decision in the matter.
As reported yesterday by LBReport.com, Mayor O'Neill staff told Ms. Porter she could not use the audio visual equipment in keeping with the incumbent Mayor's policy (which has been followed with tacit Council approval).
City Attorney Robert Shannon subsequently sent a memo to the Mayor and City Council (full text can be viewed by clicking here) which said his office has previously advised that "the decision [on use of audio visual equipment] is within the discretion of the Mayor/City Council." Mr. Shannon's memo concluded that for due process reasons in the hearing, if the appellants can't use the audio visual equipment, city staff won't be able to do so in the hearing either.
Responding to the fast moving developments, Vice Mayor Baker, who will preside at the July 17 hearing in Mayor O'Neill's absence, told LBReport.com today:
"I received the City Attorney's memo which basically outlines the parameters applicable to the appellants and appellees [city staff] and I think it's appropriate to use the audio visual equipment to present the evidence in this case. Particularly in this case, the diagrams, the photographs and all of the relevant information pertaining to the proposed construction site, the current site and the park overall are clearly important."
Vice Mayor Baker also told LBReport.com he had reached agreement with the parties on dividing time for their presentations. [This isn't required but is often used in other forums, including Congress, to equalize contested presentations.]
The appellants (Porter, Cantrell and May) and appellees (city staff) will each have 30 minutes per side, plus five minutes for each side for rebuttal. The appellants and city staff will both be allowed to use the audio visual equipment. This will be followed by testimony from the public.
Ms. Porter told LBReport.com that after Vice Mayor Baker telephoned her this morning, discussed and confirmed the hearing arrangements, she received a phone call from Mayor O'Neill's office saying the Mayor had OK'd use of the audio visual equipment.
LB's Council-enacted Municipal Code is silent on the public's use of the audio video equipment. With tacit Council approval, former Mayor Ernie Kell allowed it. Likewise with tacit Council approval, incumbent Mayor Beverly O'Neill has not allowed it for the general public but has allowed some developers to use the equipment.
Under the Municipal Code, "The Mayor, or other presiding officer, shall have general direction of the Council Chamber."