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The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

Please boo next time

The most effective way to shut someone down in the public comment period of city council meetings is not for the city council to ban the person. It’s for the other members of the public to express their displeasure with the person at the mike.

I wasn’t at the city council meeting where Robert Bates rammed his ramblings down everyone’s throat, but I heard the clip on Bob Bruce’s show on WMT and here’s what Rick Smith reported:

“Bates’ presentation had been wandering, ineffective, intimidating, abusive, finger-pointing and, at-times, podium-thumping. He used profanity, yelling and what sounded like sexual references, and at times addressed specific, pointed, personal attacks at council members and someone from Minnesota, which apparently was the city manager.”

There were 100 people in the room. Why didn’t anyone boo? Tense silence only contributes to an exhibitionist’s performance. A chorus of boos from the timid gallery would have deflated the thing pronto.

Now there are rumors the city might get a restraining order to keep Bates away. It would be massively unfortunate for it to come to that, considering the people of Cedar Rapids could have shouted Bates down themselves.

It’s possible, I guess, that the 100 people at the meeting liked what Bates was saying. Let’s hope that’s not true. But if it’s not, Wednesday’s gallery silence was at best an isolated case of collective public cowardice.

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Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, , ,

3 Responses

  1. Concerned Citizen says:

    The public comment period is a time when the City Council hears the views of the public, including Mr. Bates. What right do individuals in the audience have to silence Mr. Bates or interfere with the City Council’s right to hear him? Mr. Bates has the right to speak for 5 minutes and if individuals do not like his views or his tactics they can subsequently approach the microphone and address the City Council. If Mr. Bates violates the rules during his presentation then it is up to the City Council to enforce those rules.

    For those of you in favor of silencing Mr. Bates I imagine you would be upset if Mr. Bates started booing during your comment period. In addition, if you were a member of the City Council and trying to listen to Mr. Bates, I believe you would not be receptive to booing.

    If the City Council is upset with Mr. Bates then I would suggest that the Council contact Mr. Bates and calmly explain to him what portions of his presentation were inappropriate, suggest alternatives and then encourage him to speak at upcoming meetings provided he follows the rules. I believe our politicians are strong enough to withstand an occasional 5 minutes of off-and-on finger-pointing, podium-thumping, yelling and language that is abusive, profane and that has sexual references. If the Council has security concerns than appropriate law enforcement personnel should be made available. Banning Mr. Bates should be a last resort.

    Advocating that certain individuals and their views be “shouted down” at a City Council meeting is not a position I can support nor do I think it is reasonable or effective.

    Finally, I applaud the 100 people in the audience for not booing and respecting Mr. Bate’s right to speak. Clearly this is not a case of “collective public cowardice”.

  2. Deb V says:

    Last I knew, freedom of speech is still alive and well in America….which would mean that Mr. Bates has the right to speak his mind, and in the most literal sense, it would also mean that the audience has the right to boo.

    That doesn’t mean they SHOULD, however, and it’s completely astonishing that you would suggest as much.

    Should they also boo whenever a council person says something they don’t like? Because that ought to turn every meeting into a boo fest!

    If Mr. Bates is a threat, he should be dealt with as a threat. If he’s just a blowhard who likes to have his five minutes of rant, then he gets to have his five minutes like everyone else.

  3. j hutton says:

    we need to help the people who have no heat & no homes & quit acting like children some of the storys of teatment of citizens are shameful

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