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Mailbag: Public participation is part of 'democracy'

December 12, 2013

Staff writer Bradley Zint's article ["New Comments Policy Codified," Dec. 6] reported on the Costa Mesa City Council's Dec. 3 vote to delay certain public comments to the end of the meeting.

Zint attributes a comment to Mayor Jim Righeimer to the effect that people who come to the meetings to address a particular item on the agenda "shouldn't have to wait hours to do so. There has to be some balance for everybody."

At the meeting, public comments deferred to the end totaled 18 minutes. Thus, under the new policy, someone wanting to address the last item on the agenda had their wait shortened by 18 minutes. However, those whose public comments were delayed had to wait from 7:07 p.m. to 1 a.m. — a total of six hours — to say what they came to say.

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Eighteen minutes versus six hours is not "balance."

Considering the minimal impact on the actual function of the meeting, one has to wonder what the real reason is for Righeimer's push for the change.

Could it be that he doesn't want to be bothered with listening to the comments and opinions of the public? Could it be that he wants to reduce the exposure of people whose points of view differ from his (the majority of public commenters)? After all, he's up for reelection in less than a year.

Public participation and information is essential to the proper functioning of a democracy. Sometimes that may be inconvenient, but I think it's worth the trouble. Mayor Righeimer apparently does not.

Perry Valantine

Costa Mesa

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Commenting policy is unfair

I attended the Dec. 3 Costa Mesa City Council meeting at which Mayor Jim Righeimer tried to explain his decision to radically change the public-comment process. All but 10 of the speakers have to wait until the very end of the meeting to make their three-minute comments. It was about 1:30 a.m. Dec. 4 when the last public comments were made.

Many members of the public asked why the change was being made now. Righeimer stated it was done to allow more time for the public hearings.

"It is a balancing measure," he said.

He made the statement, despite the several searches of past meetings showing that public comments use an average of 30 minutes at the beginning of the council meeting.

Some suspect that he has made the change in public comments in anticipation of the contentious issues of the proposed city charter and his re-election campaign. I would encourage all Costa Mesa residents to speak loudly and often against this blatant restriction of our 1st Amendment rights.

Margaret Mooney

Costa Mesa

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