December 25, 2013
Vol: 20 No: 52

News

City Council passes new rules to limit unruly public commenters

by: Aaron Burkhalter , Staff Reporter

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The Seattle City Council passed new meeting rules that allow the nine-member body to bar people from public meetings if they cause disturbances.

The new rules, which take effect Jan. 1, allow the council to eject speakers if they continue to speak after their allotted two minutes, talk about issues that are unrelated to the meeting or shout from the audience.

Councilmembers can ban people from speaking at future meetings if they have been disruptive at multiple meetings.

The Seattle City Council revises its meeting rules every two years. This year’s changes come as a direct response to three activists from StandUP-America, an open government nonprofit that frequents city council meetings.

Before passing the new rules Dec. 16, Council President Sally Clark said StandUP-America prompted the changes.

The group has spoken at city council meetings more than 400 times in the past year, calling elected officials “criminals” and “Nazis,” all while urging them to make government more open to the public.

The group advocates for evening meetings so people who work during the day can attend. They also want the city council to hold town hall meetings without a set agenda so the public can air any grievances.

In the fall, after StandUP-America’s Sam Bellomio called Councilmember Tim Burgess a “dick,” Clark tried to bar him from meetings, but the existing rules did not allow such action.

The changes won’t keep people from calling councilmembers names, however. The rules put no restrictions on what kind of language people are allowed to use during the two minutes allotted to each speaker. Outside of that window, however, speakers are supposed to stand back from the dais and not interrupt the meeting.

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