(Oct. 11, 2003) -- After a Mayor Beverly O'Neill publicly prevented a LB resident from using the City Council chamber's taxpayer-paid visual display equipment to support his testimony, 7th district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga has agendized for the Oct. 14 Council meeting a request that a Council committee develop guidelines for the public's use of that equipment on prior request.
In a story posted on Oct. 5 by LBReport.com ("Censored @ City Council") LBReport.com reported that at the Sept. 23 Council meeting, Cal. Hts. resident and 7th district constituent Larry Mebust had prepared a power point presentation with maps to back his testimony that using LB Airport's shorter 25R runway for large jets posed safety concerns. Prior to the meeting, he'd checked with Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga's office and double-checked with the City Clerk's office, which referred him to Mayor O'Neill's office where he was told three-minute public speakers are not allowed to use the Council's visual equipment.
The story was subsequently reported and amplified by Press-Telegram columnist Tom Hennessy in his column published Oct 10.
LBReport.com charged that there is no City Charter or Municipal Code provision regarding use of the audiovisual equipment...and charged further that LB's prior Mayor Ernie Kell did not try to interfere with public's use of it in Council testimony.
We also noted that more recently, then-Vice Mayor Dan Baker let members of the public use the visual equipment during a Council meeting he chaired in Mayor O'Neill absence in the interest of presenting a full record and having a fair debate on the issue. [Ed note: It was on the Scherer Park issue, not the breakwater, a factoid we mangled and have since corrected; we apologize for that goof which fortunately doesn't change the underlying point.] Councilman Baker allowed this even though he respectfully disagreed with the proponents' substantive position.
One section of the Council-enacted Municipal Code says only that "The Mayor, or other presiding officer, shall have general direction of the Council Chamber." Mayor O'Neill's policy -- implemented without dissent from the Council until now -- has prevented the public from using the visual equipment except when the speaker is an appellant in a formal hearing. The policy gives city officials and those whose messages it approves the advantage of presenting graphics to support their positions...while members of the public with other viewpoints are correspondingly disadvantaged.
At the Sept. 23 Council meeting, Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga asked about the policy and the Mayor accurately answered, "Actually, I made that decision. If you'd like to change it, we can certainly bring it to the Council, but it was causing some congestion and also there were some things that were brought forward that were not appropriate."
Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga replied, "I think maybe there are some guidelines that we need to revisit that and take a look at it."
And she has.
In a diplomatically worded agendizing memo -- that cites the Council's publicly adopted Strategic Plan -- Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga writes: