Wednesday January 9, 2013

I must take issue with your editorial of Dec. 31, "Speech and Responsibility." A good editorial is about truth (the facts), and not a one-sided spin for the other side.

The editorial said Mr. Cardimino was "Banned in June by the City Council." Not so. The mayor of North Adams had the city solicitor place a "no trespass notice" on him on June 18, forbidding him from entering upon the building and grounds of City Hall. It had nothing to do with the City Council, and then five months after the mayor lifted the order with the city solicitor’s help and with talks with Mr. Cardimino’s lawyer from the ACLU, again nothing to do with the City Council, some councilors didn’t even know that he was allowed back.

The editorial states, "The Council then decided to enact a rule specifically banning signs." No. Council President Bloom placed an agenda paper #11, 209-2 on his own on Nov. 20, for the Nov. 27 City Council meeting, and at that meeting the paper did not have the votes to pass and was amended and sent to the general government committee for a rehash and an opinion by the city solicitor, as some councilors thought it could violate the First Amendment. The paper in question read in part, "No member or official or visitor shall be allowed to publicly display any form of messaging, whether lettered or printed article of personal clothing at a City Council meeting. Objects used for the purpose of conveying a message are also forbidden."

The general government committee meet on Dec. 26, with City Solicitor John B. DeRosa present. After reading the paper, the city solicitor said. "I will find it problematic, so we could not enact this addition to the rules, that this ordinance in its form goes beyond that and would be violative of both the federal standard and the Massachusetts standard which is actually broader then in this form. The problem is that it addresses farther beyond just the question of signs, the federal standard, so while a sign in itself would not be per say be precluded, the language here goes to content expression, goes beyond what is permitted."

In 2010 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after the Norse v. San Cruz case revisited the topic of audience members in public meetings and the First Amendment protections. The court citing the Norwalk rule; "Actual disruption means actual disruption, it does not mean constructive disruptions, technical disruptions, virtual disruptions, or imaginary disruptions. Consequently, cities with rules of decorum should define disturbance within these parameters. Cities that do not currently have such rules are encouraged to adopt them."

Just the facts Mr. Editor, just the facts. MARK TROTTIER

North Adams