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Santa Cruz Indymedia

LOCAL Announcement :: Civil & Human Rights

Rotkin Sent Third Brown Act Demand on Coast Hotel Public Comment Censorship

With the first two Brown Act demand letters ignored, I sent the third letter to Mayor Rotkin, asking he respect the state rules requiring City Councils to respect public comment periods.
309 Cedar PMB #14B
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

February 1, 2005

Mayor Mike Rotkin
Santa Cruz, CA

Dear Mayor Rotkin,

This is to follow up on my two letters of January 19th and January 24th requesting you correct Brown Act violations made at the January 18th and January 19th City Council meetings.

In those meetings, you refused to allow me three minutes of uninterrupted testimony on the Santa Cruz Coast Hotel project to a full quorum of the City Council, in violation of sections 54954(c) and 54954.3(a) of the Brown Act.

Section 54954 (c) reads "The legislative body of a local agency shall not prohibit public criticism of the policies, procedures, programs, or services of the agency, or of the acts or omissions of the legislative body." Section 54954.3(a) reads "Every agenda for regular meetings shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body on any item of interest to the public, before or during the legislative body's consideration of the item, that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body..."

My January 24th letter requested that the censored Public Comment time be restored on January 25th when the issue was again on the agenda. According to the City Clerk's office, you declined to do this. In continuing this course of misconduct, you are compounding your Brown Act violations. In refusing to explain or justify your behavior, you are showing contempt for the public and for those interested in understanding how you conduct meetings.

You showed on January 19th that you were willing to forcibly order me removed from the hearing by a police officer for simply standing at the public podium and awaiting my time to speak. As I mentioned in my letter of the 24th, this unlawful arrest also denied me the opportunity to hear the rest of the proceedings, to talk with members of the audience, to circulate petitions in the Civic Auditorium, and generally to join in the public debate. I was warned by the police officer not to reenter chambers. This violates Section 54953. (a) of the Brown Act which reads "All meetings of the legislative body of a local agency shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislative body of a local agency..."

The most convenient time to do this is at the February 8th Public Hearing when the issue will again be on the agenda. I would request an additional three minutes as part of my individual speaking time, for a total of six minutes, to make up for the time improperly taken from me on January 18th. Please assure me during this six minute period that I will be able to speak without being interrupted, threatened, or removed--and that I will be able to speak to a full quorum of the City Council, if you intend to complete business on that item. For the third time, this is a formal Brown Act demand.

I am also making this demand in addition to my request for the normal 5 minute HUFF organization speaking time (which I may not be using, but some HUFF member will use).

I have asked attorney David Beauvais, one of the attorneys currently suing the City Council for prior violations of my First Amendment rights, to add this current Brown Act violation to the ongoing lawsuit as another example of the City Council's pattern of selective harassment. Your denial of the right to speak on January 18, 19, and 24 have already impacted my ability to be a part of the public debate on the Santa Cruz Coast Hotel issue. I also believe it has chilled other speakers and other potential speakers.

I would like assurance that you will follow the law on February 8th and not subject me to public scorn, obloquy, and defamation by a repeat performance of your illegal arrest of January 19th. Please respond in writing at least 24 hours before the Council meeting so I can pursue legal options if you choose to again deny me the right to speak as outlined above.

It also saddens me to see the rushed process you are using that excludes a meaningful community dialogue on the hotel/conference center/parking garage issue.


Robert Norse
(Y Swami Y)

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