WatchSonoma Watch

Olivares keeps public comments at end of meetings


People hoping to address the Santa Rosa City Council on issues not covered by the meeting agenda will continue to wait until the end of the meetings to exercise that right.

Mayor Ernesto Olivares on Tuesday informed the council that he had considered but rejected Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre’s proposal to move the public comments to a more convenient time for the public.

“It is my intention to leave public comment where it is,” Olivares informed his colleagues. “I think past mayors have decided wisely to move it to the end.”

But Olivares said he was open to discussing the council’s practice of turning off television cameras for that portion of the meeting, something that some consider a form of censorship.

The issue of when the public should be allowed to speak to the council on issues unrelated to the agenda has vexed the council for years. Previous councils have accepted the comments — which often range from the reasonable to the delusional — at various times, including the beginning of the meetings, a set time in the middle and near the end of meetings.

But last year, the council pushed public comments to the very end of the meetings, which begin at 4 p.m. and can go past midnight. At the same time the city turned off the video cameras to take the soapbox away from those seen as using the council as a forum to spread ideas with little if any relation to the city.

Vas Dupre asked Olivares to schedule a time for the full council to revisit the issue. But Olivares said he had considered the issue and would not move the time.

He said council meetings by their nature are fluid and predicting the timing of items can be difficult for all participants. He also said citizens can speak on items on the agenda throughout the meeting, and city departments are responsive to issues raised by the public.

“They know they can pick up the phone, bring up issues with different departments and the city manager’s office, and they are addressed,” Olivares said.

Vas Dupre said she disagreed with the decision, noting that a recent council meeting didn’t wrap up until after midnight. “I think to expect the public to wait around for a time uncertain is unfair,” she said.

Vas Dupre added that she believed turning off the television camera for one portion of the public meetings is “a form of censorship.”

She pressed the mayor to have the whole council discuss the issue of the time of public comments, but he declined, agreeing only to a future discussion of the appropriateness of turning off the cameras.

“It is my prerogative as mayor to plan the agenda and when you or someone else is mayor, they may consider a different agenda if they wish to,” he said.

Vas Dupre then requested a formal vote on the subject. Her motion was voted down 4-3, with Olivares, John Sawyer, Jake Ours, and Scott Bartley voting against it.

32 Responses to “Olivares keeps public comments at end of meetings”

  1. Alex says:

    The sad part is this…those who speak…shouldn’t. Just go downtown and listen to the wonderful blessing Gorin gave for street performers. Honest to God, it just allowed the crazy to dance and sing on the street…there is absolutely no talent and please spare me the “art is subjective”. Hollering with a broken tune and making absolutely no sense in what you are singing just to hear your own voice is not performing. I don’t even bother going downtown anymore because I get so annoyed. So I am not sure what brilliant idea that popped into her head when she decided to move forward allowing what I call disturbance of the peace to be broadcasted from every corner. In a nut shell, to give people more time to rant and whine is useless and unproductive. Write down the questions and give it to the council to answer. Productivity does not happen with rambling…it is just wasted time and energy

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  2. Social Dis-Ease says:

    To Kay: your post touches on why my previous entry had a sarcastic tone.
    Because we both know we have people on the public’s payroll trying to shape consensus on WSC. We already have too much artificially manufactured consensus going on in local politics. For a public political figure to adopt a pseudonym to manipulate public opinion is just plain wrong. Now if say, Gary Wysocky wanted to come on the site (under his name) and
    speak to the public’s benefit of ICLEI membership or eliminating cars or Smart-that’s different.
    That’s a genuine dialogue.
    Something conspicuously absent from our local dynamic.
    It’s encouraging to see this story get the attention it deserves on here.
    Some excellent comments.

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  3. Status Quo Works says:

    I rarely agree with Olivares on anything, but I’ve been to enough council meetings to know that the proliferation of nut-jobs looking to get on TV was a problem, and his solution is correct.

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  4. Kay Tokerud says:

    @Lisa Maldonado

    I sued the City once along with the non-profit group Concernced Citizens of Santa Rosa Against Redevelopment Law Abuse. But for the record, you never asked me this question before.

    I almost got ran over twice at unsafe intersections on Humboldt Street as the cars were forced into the crosswalk area by the circles in the middle of the street. This project violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Gary Wysocky pushed this unpopular bully-vard onto his neighbors and cost the City about a quarter of a million so far.

    Although a lot of people have asked me to run for City Council, I think I can do more good from the outside. I’ve been busy working to clean up government in any way I can. Dissemination of important information is my highest priority. The way to stop tyranny is to have an informed populace.

    What were your other insults, something about riding my Cannondale bike? Oh, you wanted me and my partner Rosa Koire to move away? Well, the feelings are mutual I assure you. Sarcasm aside, we as Americans can live where we choose, thankfully in this great nation.

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  5. Public Be Damned says:

    @Money Grubber

    Mayor Olivares is too busy counting the money he gets from his LARGE pension, which he spiked his last year on the job.

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  6. Kirstin says:

    The mayor’s autocratic decision does not respect the time of his bosses — the people. He should have restored public comment on non-agenda items to its earlier place near the beginning of the meeting. And all public comment, agenda or non-agenda should be televised.

    However, I repeat my earlier comment that those who speak also have a responsibility to respect the council’s time and that of the public that is listening. Therefore, I think the solution of providing time for those who wish to speak on a direct city matter should speak toward the beginning of the meeting, and those who feel compelled to speak about other topics should wait until the end. There can be other ways to accomodate the balance between freedom of speech and respect for everyone’s time — this is just one suggestion.

    The mayor’s contention that residents can pick up the phone to city departments sidesteps the issue which is that residents should be able to speak in a public forum to their city council about items that are potentially of concern to us all. Perhaps a citizen wants to ask the council to place an issue on a future agenda. Perhaps someone has an afterthought about a non-agenda issue that is pending in city business. Etc. The people should not have to wait hours to speak about such things.

    I agree with Kay Tokerud and others that we need more resident participation. Given the way things are going in government at all levels, it really is vital that Americans pay attention to what the politicians are doing and make corrections in the policies and to politicians as needed. So, I would hope more people will pay attention to what the city council does. Perhaps if public comment on city issues were again moved to early in the agenda and speakers respected that boundary, more Santa Rosans would feel comfortable about speaking to the council themselves.

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  7. Social Dis-Ease says:

    Homegirl, you’re my kinda gal.
    Let’s all show up at next City Council.
    Citizen involvement. Wow-what a concept.
    To ‘Lily’: does that mean we can count on your vote for Kay on City Council?
    But seriously, why be against a train?
    Why be against a little power meter on your home?
    Why be against Redevelopment?
    Because many of us have connected the dots, they connect to Agenda 21.
    I have an idea ‘Lily’. Why don’t you come to the next City Council meeting?
    We can exchange business cards, learn more about each other and our ‘community’.

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  8. homegirl says:

    Time for action. I suggest a line up of 20-50 citizens waiting to speak at the end of the CC meeting. Each takes the alloted 3 minutes, let the council end at 2 or 3 a.m. Turn about is fair play.

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  9. Lily says:

    @Kay… You are one of the crackpots who wastes our councils time. I am still waiting for you to respond to the questions I posed to you about how many law suits you have filed with the city and this neighborhood assoc. you formed when we booted you two autocrats from ours…talk about wasting time and money. You are no more a local hero than Oliveres,Ours,Bartley or Sawyer. All of you who are pro- development when my home town has been over developed.The development is not about creating jobs. I wish you and Rose would move far, far away and stop messing up what once was a lovely town.The same goes for the 4 council members I mentioned above. Sawyer, being a local boy should know better. Also, what was your gripe with a bike blvd. on Humboldt St really about?? When was the last time you mounted a bike and why does it matter to you? I know, you have no intention of answering these questions either!!

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  10. Reality Check says:

    As others have said, this isn’t about non-agenda speech; it’s about TV. And if anything should be scheduled last it’s speech unrelated to the meeting, or often to the city at all.

    Yes, the city is obligated to let people speak on any subject, but it isn’t obligated to broadcast that speech, nor schedule it in front of people with legitimate city business.

    People complain the city acts more like they’re running a circus sometimes. The previous practice is a perfect example. Two thumbs up for the major’s scheduling change.

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  11. Kay Tokerud says:

    Half of you don’t know there’s a law that says public comments must be allowed on non-agenda items. Therefore, your comments are off topic here. They only have three minutes to speak, apparently about half of you don’t even know that. If you ever participated in your government’s public process you would know these things but you are probably too lazy to invest your time and energy. If more people participated we would have a better city government.

    Americans are supposed to speak out and be heard. Your disrespectful comments about your fellow Americans are not helping.

    I’m Ok with these non-agenda items being at the end unless the meetings run very long, in which case they could be allowed by say 8PM or so. Then people would not have to wait 6 to 8 hours just to speak for 3 minutes.

    I’m not Ok with cutting this portion from the televised broadcast. Why should this one legally required portion of the meeting be cut? It’s disrespectful and could be construed as censorship. People have the right to say anything they want in their 3 minutes and it isn’t up to anyone to decide whether or not the comments are of value.

    I wish more of you commenting here would invest your time and energy and make your voices heard at these meetings. Would you want your comments cut off? I think not.

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  12. Social Dis-Ease says:

    If our ‘public servants’ don’t want to hear us in a conveinient, civilized democratic, Constitutional manner, we have a problem. We should be the priority, they work for us.
    Perhaps we should employ some picket signs and bull horns.
    Seriously, dissent is patriotic in the presence impropriety.
    The Constitution provides for it.
    ‘Cause we gots lotsa improprieties.

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  13. Greg Karraker says:

    It’s a pat answer to say that Citizen’s Business has to involve the city, but if some wacko rants about cloud seeding, and the cloud is over Santa Rosa, that qualifies as a city concern.

    The point is, who gets to decide what’s relevant and what isn’t? That’s a slippery slope that lets councilmembers use their own biases to muzzle free speech.

    The best solution so far is to start the meeting an hour earlier, and let the council sit through citizen input. At least, it’s one hour when they’re not funding roundabouts and bike boulevards.

    Besides, just look at Cotati, where most of the wackos are behind the dais. Several years ago, they actually agendized, discussed, and voted on a resolution to try Bush and Cheney for war crimes.

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  14. Jonathan Dan says:

    @Kat … Only if there is the other half. It is always 4-3. You figure it out. And forget about the colusion of the election funds when Bartley gave some to the other 3 since he has surpluses. Give me a break!

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  15. bear says:

    This is easy. Start the Council meetings one hour earlier. Limit off-agenda comments to 3 minutes. When the hour is up, cut things off and proceed to business.

    What we’re really talking about is free speech on off-sagenda items and the amount of free speech the Council should have to endure in one meeting.

    This is part of being on the Council. It is not a new development. If people on the Council don’t want to deal with it, then they should seek other hobbies.

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  16. Jordan says:

    It wouldn’t be hard to have a small podium with a microphone hooked up to the ‘net 24/7, for anyone and everyone who wanted to be heard to talk. If these public comments really have nothing to do with the city, I agree, they should not be wasting time during a city meeting. Of course, I see little reason to turn off cameras. If people want to watch, they will. If they don’t, they’ll turn the TV off. It *is* leaning toward censorship if you intentionally air a meeting and turn them off when the public expects to get the same kind of respect their (paid for) gov’t does.

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  17. hannon sutro says:

    Public Comments? You have to be kidding. Have you ever listen to them? Talk about nuclear attacks, cloud seeding with Anthrax and other tin foil conspiracy talk is what you hear. There has to be a way to curtail the weirdos and why waste the people time and energy listing to that crap?
    This has gotten out of hand, you call it censorship, I call it weedking out the kooks.
    End of story.

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  18. Not A Chance says:

    This is laughable, not only does he not care about diversity on the charter, he doesn’t want to hear any complaining about his poor governance!

    No political sense whatsoever. Empty Suit.

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  19. Steve Klausner says:

    It’s got to be hard, sit there and listen all night long to these rants without picking your nose or yawning.

    Solution: Once a year, maybe April 1st, all day long, council members, department heads, staff, including them that actually do the real work, sit in audience, and let the public line up and speak their minds.

    Put it all on You Tube.

    Now get back to work!

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  20. kat says:

    @Jonathan Dan
    seems to me that the other half also sticks together like peas in a pod.

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  21. cheryl says:

    This mayor wants to muzzle the public…not only by putting public comments at end of meeting but then turning off cameras to record the concerns voiced. VOTE this guy out of office…he is certainly not for the people he serves.

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  22. Dan Delgado says:

    Who ever said the city council must be an audience for every looney wanting some mike time? Freedom of speech is great, a captive audience is not. Get a soap box, set up on Courthouse Square and have at it. The council was elected to conduct the city’s business, not to be cannon fodder for every rant coming down the pike.

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  23. Reality Check says:

    Why would the mayor, council or public, who presumably watch to keep up with city affairs, want to hear about things having nothing to do with city government, including 9/11 conspiracy theories, anti-Afghanistan war rants, etc?

    In any case, the issue here is not about talking to the council; it’s about TV. It’s a powerful magnet for every would be savior of the world.

    Maybe one of cable access channels should just feature an open forum each day in which any and all views are broadcast. Of course the audience would then drop from the already tiny one council meetings get.

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  24. Money Grubber says:

    I have a solution.

    Provide an hour each working day for citizens to drop in and speak to the Council Members and the Mayor.

    Willie Brown, former Mayor of San Francisco, used to do that.

    Maybe the Mayor of Santa Rosa is just much busier than the Mayor of San Francisco ?

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  25. Alex says:

    I agree with the Mayor. There are just too many soap boxes in Santa Rosa and he is acting like a leader should…give the crazy a soap box and next thing you hear is hours of ramble.

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  26. Dave Madigan says:

    Since the Mayor does not want to hear from the public until the end of the meeting, he is showing that he really doesn’t care about hearing from the citizens.

    Be sure to remember this when the Mayor wants your vote in the next election!

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  27. Gram'ah says:

    Clearly this council regard themselves as our rulers, not our public servants. One of the costs of freedom is that we don’t just tolerate the voice of every citizen. We respect it, however strange it may seem. Maybe we must listen closely to learn and try to judge.
    Apparently some of us are too good to rub shoulders with the real people who make up this world. They prefer to let the hoi polloi, who don’t even exist in truth, go beg at midnight. I gently remind you smug swine that Democracy won’t be realized until it includes everyone.

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  28. Fed UP says:

    If it is important to say something then it must be worth the wait. If not then go home and actually do something productive. I wonder if they moved the comments up earlier and turned off the televising if it would really make a difference.

    Keep it at the end and perhaps the Council can actually get something done.

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  29. Jonathan Dan says:

    “Olivares, John Sawyer, Jake Ours, and Scott Bartley voting against it.” No surprise there. The 4 always sticks together.

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  30. Taxpayer says:

    On behalf of the Santa Rosa residents who watch Council meetings to be informed about what’s going on in Santa Rosa: Thank you.

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  31. brown act jack says:

    It is interesting how politicans cover their butts with un-truths!

    Oh, you ask what was untrue about the mayor’s statement?

    Well, it is strange because I filed a CPRA request on how the change was made an authorized, and that CPRA request only showed a clerk in the office phoned it in to the Media Center, and no one in the City’s office had any further information.

    Hmmm, either they lied to me in the CPRA response, ro the mayor is lying now!

    Take your pick!

    There is no indication any mayor , or the city council took the action, so it must be someone else, who wishes to remain anonymous.

    Isn’t that strange?

    But, you might expect it of people who do not wish to be exposed to public scrutiny.

    Hide your heads , you villains, but you will be outed soon enough!

    If you have so little respect for the citizens, please do not expect to get the respect you might desire by your positions in the City Council.

    Like all politicans you espouse citizen input, but you limit it to the citizens you wish to be heard from. The rest of the public be damned,

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  32. Kat says:

    Nice job Mayor Olivare, most of the people makes no sense at all. I feel sorry for you and everyone else who must sit and hear all the nonsense from them. Like you said if VasDupre wants to move it then if and when (which I hopes never happens)she is mayor so be it.

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