By Timothy Moorhouse
Last week the Santa Barbara City Council voted to remove remote-style public comment.
I understand the main reasoning for this is because there’s some online movement for MAGA people/white nationalists to take over local proceedings during the public comment section by calling in and saying disgusting and vile racist statements. I hope these people do not live in our community, although looking at some of the hateful comments on local social media pages it appears they might.
It appears Councilmembers Eric Friedman and Oscar Gutierrez got into a verbal row over the choice to temporarily remove the remote comments, both sharing interesting insights into a complicated issue.
For what it’s worth, the City of Santa Barbara is not legally obligated to provide remote comments, it was only done so during the pandemic.
I agree that if someone wants to take three minutes of the council, and the public’s time with their idiotic racist ideologies, have the guts to walk down to City Hall and do it in person so we can all see your face. Hiding behind a phone and a fake name is cowardly.
I also agree that we should not limit free speech. Offering remote comment has made the community more engaged in local issues. People with disabilities, the elderly, parents, and others are now able to easily participate from the comfort of their own homes. The more locals we have engaged, the better our community will be for it. I agree with Councilmember Gutierrez on this point. Even the most vile and disgusting of voices are allowed to have a voice, that’s a bedrock component of our country’s free speech.
On a personal level, I’m sick and tired of the racists, homophobes, sexists, and bigots having their “opinions” heard simply because they are the loudest and most unhinged. Their hate should not be normalized and we should not grow numb to it.
With that, I’m here to write there does not seem to be a perfect solution to this problem. Perhaps our Councilmembers can take a bit more time to see all viewpoints before making a decision moving forward.
Op-Ed’s are written by community members, not representatives of edhat. The views and opinions expressed in Op-Ed articles are those of the author’s.
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