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Costa Mesa dumps plan to push public to the end of meetings

March 21, 2012 | 11:34 am

Public comments
A plan to push public comments toward the tail-end of City Council meetings in Costa Mesa has been rejected after citizens complained it was an attempt to censor citizens and silence dissent in the Orange County city.

Costa Mesa Mayor Eric Bever had proposed the change, but even he went along with a unanimous council vote Tuesday to dump the idea.

Bever said his proposal was an attempt to curtail what he perceived as uncivil behavior from some members of the public during the open microphone portion of the meetings, which had been -– and now will remain -– near the start of council meetings.

"More than anything, I wanted to get everybody's attention that I'm serious -- we need to keep the decorum in these meetings," Bever said.

Costa Mesa has been a city of spirited debate since municipal leaders started wrestling with cutting the cost of government through layoffs and contracting out municipal services. Bever’s proposal was seen by some as an effort to silence that debate.

"I would remind you are elected to lead, not to rule. You are not our parents. It is not your purview to punish us," resident Eleanor Egan said.

Bever, though, said he worried that the decorum of meetings had become so horrendous -- with heckling, whispering and snickering -- that some residents stopped attending.

"What has happened, through the evolution of this lack of decorum, people that come to this room to speak have been sent away because others do not respect their opinions," Bever said.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece spoke out against the resolution, bringing up concerns it would disenfranchise students, the elderly and those who simply can't stay up late from having their voices heard.

"I think that all comments are productive," she said.


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-- Britney Barnes

Photo: Costa Mesa council members Jim Righeimer, Gary Monahan and Wendy Leece pause for prayer before a meeting last year. Credit: Dan Krauss / For The Times