Speaking Freely at Dayton City Commission meetings: Is it possible?? | August 20, 2007

At last weeks Dayton City Commission meeting David Esrati challenged the Commission on their rules for speaking at the meeting. With his now infamous “Ninja” mask as prop, Esrati was able to gain the attention [ and the smirking commentary] of our local MSM in a way that would likely have not happened without the extra dramatics. The sad part about comments like the ones  in the Dayton Daily New’s anonymous “speak up” column is that most comments missed the main point: That freedom speech is under attack or restriction in virtually all levels of government.

If you actively oppose the War in Iraq Bush administration spokespeople and their lackeys will likely question your patriotisms and challenge you “right” to speak out against the “commander in chief” during a time of war. VP Cheney has been particularly vocal in this regard, attempting to and using his bully pulpit ot smother all levels of criticism. The President and his cohorts were able to use similar tactics to beat back opposition to the changes they wanted in the NSA wiretapping laws, with 16 democrats caving to the pressure in the Senate.

How, you may ask, does the actions of the Federal government relate to David Esrati? Simple. All politics are local. The democratic process is severely diminished when citizens are not able to easily take part in the process of government in ways that go beyond voting for the latest party picked candidate. The ability to speak to power with truth, or, at least the citizens version of truth, without fear of retribution, is a vital bulwark in the protection of our most basic of freedoms. That is why the founders of this nation gave us the protection of the First amendment..

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Absent this most vital of freedoms everything else becomes a charade. When governments at any level seek to erect roadblocks in this regard they must be challenged, for without the discourse between citizen and the governed that serves them, we are teetering down the road to totalitarianism.

Dayton’s City Commission has some of the most stringent requirements for public speaking in the Miami Valley, requiring those who wish to speak to agree to rules governing everything from conduct to length of time for speaking. How do these rules compare with other Miami Valley Communities? Here are the result of a mini survey I conducted today:

Miamisburg: No form required to speak, allowed 5 minutes before meeting to speak on agenda items. May speak on agenda items on calendar at discretion of mayor during meeting No residency requirement.

Centerville: NO form; No set time limit but asked to limit tio 5 minutes. Citizens comments at end of meeting with only requirement to give name and address. Nop residency requirement.

Oakwood: NO form required. Visitor/citizen comments at beginning of meeting. Mayor runs meeting, citizens allowed to speak directly to agenda items as they are arrived at during meeting. No residency requirement.

Kettering: No form. Citizens have 5 minutes at end of meeting to address Council. To speak to items on agenda during the meeting a card is provided to be filled out for that specific item.

Springboro: NO form. Citizens comments at end of meeting with no set time limit[discretion of mayor] No residency requirements.

Fairborn NO form. Citizens given 3 minutes at end of meeting Asked to make comments on legislation/ordinances at 2nd reading. No residency requirement

Then there is Dayton…


There are two simple changes that would make these rules more democratic [after all we do have FIVE DEMOCRATS on the Commission] Eliminate to requirement for having to submit speaking form BEFORE the meeting starts, AND allow requests to speak to be submitted at any time during the meeting. The first change is self evident. The second addresses the issue of items NOT on the agenda that come up during the course of a meeting. Last week there were two such situations. one involving Mountain Days {not on the agenda} and the appearance of the Mayor of Monrovia, Liberia, Dayton’s African Sister City {also not on the agenda}

Garnering Citizen input should be a major Priority of our elected officials. As David has so correctly  pointed out, and I reiterate, they are there because we, the people, put them there. They therefor should be prepared to hear from us when we wish to address them AND to respond as appropriate, not ignore what is said.

Want to comment on this idea? The City Commission telephone # is 333-3636. You only lose your rights when you don’t make use of them…make a call.


1 Comment »

  1. Hi Gary-
    Thanks for the support. I haven’t had much from the locals. Somehow, the freedom to speak to our elected officials is considered not that important…
    and- you should always do as they wish.

    Comment by David Esrati — August 20, 2007 @ 10:04 pm

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