Monday, September 27, 2010

The Right to Offend: Shut Up! The Case of the Vancouver City Council

This photo was taken at a town hall meeting in April, not the council meeting in question.
It was used by the Columbian to illustrate a story about the September incident.

Vancouver City Council member Jeanne Harris has presented workshops on stress management and mediation to public officials. Two weeks ago, she demonstrated the antithesis of the behaviors she recommends. During a city council meeting, she repeatedly berated a citizen who was addressing the council, demanding that Mayor Tim Leavitt "gavel down" the man. She continued to attempt to shut down his public comment and later, when fellow Council member Jeanne Stewart remonstrated her, she snapped "Shut up."

But don't take my word for it. Check out the video clip for yourself:

Mayor Tim Leavitt went on the Victoria Taft radio show (AM 860/KPAM) to discuss the issue. You can hear the clip at

The Columbian called for a reprimand of Harris' behavior. But their editorial noted that Harris' underlying concern was correct:

Leavitt said the council will decide next week about any action against Harris, but the correct decision is clear. Harris’ belligerence warrants a reprimand, at minimum, by her fellow councilors. Then the mayor and the council should make more clear the policies for council meetings. City Attorney Ted Gathe says the meetings are not public forums. Citizens comments must address current city issues, should be limited to three minutes and must not be political ax grindings.

You can

The story also was covered at

1 comment:

Kristin said...

there is something particularly tragic about the seriousness of City Council members... they love the sound of their own voices so very much that it's no wonder very little is ever accomplished at their meetings!

btw - you left a very nice comment over at one of my blogs (I have commitment issues) "Kiki's Blogs and Lies" so thank you!