Missoula City Councilor Resists Effort to Curb Freedom of Speech
Ward 6 Missoula City Councilor Sandra Vasecka has found herself in opposition to new policies and restrictions she feels are being imposed on speech by council members and the public during meetings.
KGVO reached out to Vasecka to explain the new policy on speech at the City Council meetings.
“We were changing the decorum at meetings to include, ‘no person may engage in name calling or personal attacks, indulge in personalities,” she began. “Treat with disrespect with comments or noises while another person is recognized to speak; ridicule with contemptuous and dismissive language or behavior directed towards a person rather than the agenda item under consideration.”
Vasecka continued with the new policy.
“Impugn on motives and members; imply that they are not entirely honest or honorable, absent facts,” she said. “Other members of the public or staff are not allowed to use loud, threatening, abusive, indecent or profane language, or participate in conduct which disrupts, disturbs or otherwise impedes the orderly conduct of the meeting.”
Vasecka said there was one aspect of the new policy that she found objectionable.
“But I am really concerned about the first part of it because as a taxpayer a constituent a citizen of America you should be able to impugn the motives of others and indulge in personalities,” she said. “You're allowed to question my motives, my agenda, even my integrity. Yeah I won't like that, but that is your right as a citizen.”
Vasecka said when a member of the public takes the time to come to a city council meeting, they usually have something important on their minds, and some of those subjects might be delivered emotionally, and the council needs to understand that.
“In all my time on council I've noticed that members of the public are kind but very frustrated people and I want to hear what they have to say,” she said. “I want to hear what you all have to say without fear of being cut off. We're being stripped away of our First Amendment rights one safe space at a time, and I'm really frustrated by that.”
Vasecka said now that the City Council meetings are being held virtually via ZOOM, that far fewer members of the public attend and make comments, as opposed to a live meeting at the City Council chambers.
Below, find the new policies at City Council Meetings:
Rule 4. Decorum at Meetings City Council members, the Mayor, City staff and the public are all required to follow the same basic rules of order and decorum to maintain a productive atmosphere and the integrity of governmental business before Council. • All meeting attendees shall strive to be professional in tone and conduct. • Comments shall be truthful, based in fact and be germane to the agenda item under consideration, shall be as concise as possible, and may indicate a concern for an issue. • All comments shall be addressed to the presiding officer and not individual members of the governing body, staff, or other members of the public. • No person may engage in name-calling or personal attacks, indulge in personalities (treat with disrespect, make comments or noises while another person is recognized to speak, ridicule—contemptuous and dismissive language or behavior directed toward a person rather than the agenda item under consideration) ), impugn motives of members (imply that they are not entirely honest or honorable absent facts) other members of the public or staff, or use loud, threatening, abusive, indecent, or profane language or participate in conduct which disrupts, disturbs, or otherwise impedes the orderly conduct of the meeting. • A person who resorts to persistent irrelevance or persistent repetition after the attention of the body has been called to the matter may be directed to discontinue the speech by the presiding officer. • Any actions that disrupt the orderly conduct of the meeting, at the discretion of the presiding officer, may be ruled out of order. A meeting may be recessed or adjourned until order can be restored.