Council ponders hiring a pro to do the listening task

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhy these photogenic dumplings are popping up in Los AngelesTo remedy that, Zine proposed that the council hire an ombudsman who would direct the public to a council member or a city office for help. “Every constituent who takes time out of their day to be heard by the City Council deserves to have their problems resolved by their council member or the proper city department,” Zine said. In addition to limiting time, the council further restrained public comment with the rules formally approved Tuesday to ban “personal, impertinent, unduly repetitive, slanderous or profane remarks,” as well as “loud, threatening, personal or abusive language.” The rules also prohibit “whistling, stamping of feet or other acts which disturb, disrupt or otherwise impede the orderly conduct of meetings.” The speaker will get a warning for the first offense and be ejected from the meeting for the second. Even as the City Council unanimously approved final wording Tuesday of rules for what it calls “decorum,” a move was afoot to help members of the public get their voices heard – albeit in hushed tones. Councilman Dennis Zine said he believes the council still needs to help citizens who want to be heard, although their remarks might be restricted by a new time limit. The council allows 10 minutes for public comment at each of its Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday meetings. But the council – frustrated by activists and gadflies who use their time to chastise and shout at council members – has reduced individual public comment time from two minutes to one minute on busy days. “Unfortunately, due to the large number of speakers in attendance and the short length of public comment, sometimes constituent concerns are not fully heard,” Zine said. The American Civil Liberties Union and other free-speech advocates have warned that while the rules might be legal, the council needs to be careful about such restrictions. For their part, residents have complained that the comment period is inadequate and that council members, while calling for decorum, display rude behavior themselves – typing on laptops, talking on cell phones, lobbying each other for votes or simply ignoring the public speaker. Zine offered few details of his proposal for an ombudsman. A report, including potential cost, will be prepared for the council for a decision later. “We need to empower our residents, not discourage them from creating unity in their communities and solving their neighborhood problems,” Zine said. [email protected] (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more