Thursday, November 19, 2015

Penalty for closing City Council public balcony seating, Oakland

San Francisco Chronicle/SF Gate/Rachel Swan/Staff Writer, 11/17/15. "Oakland to pay for limiting seats in council chambers."

Image result for Oakland City Council chambers picture
Our City Council meetings may be mild
by comparison with Oakland, thankfully.
"Oakland will pay $37,000 to settle a lawsuit over the administration’s May decision to close off seats during City Council meetings, a measure that infuriated free speech activists and caused some officials to question whether they had violated state law.

Council members voted Tuesday to approve a settlement that would cover legal fees for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, the union that filed a court complaint against Oakland for limiting access to public meetings. As part of the agreement, City Attorney Barbara Parker has also pledged to keep the floors and galleries open at their legal capacity: 212 people on the main floor and 49 people per gallery. In exchange, she asked that Local 21 withdraw its lawsuit.

City officials closed the balcony seats inside Oakland’s council chambers for much of May and June after a May 5 meeting ended in chaos, when housing activists stormed the dais to protest a controversial development deal. That flare-up prompted officials to beef up security at City Hall, doing bag searches at the door, asking members of the public to sign their names, and shuttering the balcony areas for much of May and June.

Local 21 filed a court complaint on June 26, claiming that Oakland officials had violated the state’s Ralph M. Brown Act and the city’s Sunshine Ordinance, which both protect the public’s right to an open government. An Alameda County Superior Court Judge ordered Oakland officials to open both the upper and lower galleries on June 29, a day before the council voted on its 2-year city budget."

Related - San Francisco CBS local, 9/28/12,"Oakland considering limiting access to City Council meetings." "OAKLAND (CBS 5) – Recent disruptions at Oakland City Council meetings have city officials considering limiting public access. City council members have been routinely shouted down at some recent gatherings, and now Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana and other officials are calling for a new balance between an open government and an efficient one.“The overriding goal here is to ensure that we have an effective public meeting process that people can participate in…and that the city can move ahead with its business in a safe and timely manner,” said Assistant City Administrator Karen Boyd."

Note photograph by Angela Hart from Oakland North, 9/19/12.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oakland got sued.Pacifica Council worries about getting sued.Remember citizens democratic rights.Mayor Irvin is very courtious to all speakers!