Bloomington, IL. (ECWd) –
The Pantagraph newspaper is doing the citizens of Bloomington, IL. a disservice by advocating for the City of Bloomington to violate the free speech rights of everyone that attends a city council meeting (read how they betray the trust of their readership here).
Newspapers have a fundamental responsibility to the public they serve, to shine the light on government – NOT to advocate that a government limit the speech rights of citizens.
This is a shining example of all that is wrong with main stream media and local newspapers today. They have become the puppets of their puppet-master advertisers, and the subjects of their public officials.
The Pantagraph has equated the statutory right of public comment at public meetings with the choices it makes as a newspaper in printing letters to the editor. There is no comparison, the first is a RIGHT, and the second is at the discretion of the paper.
Then they say the city is “doing its job” if it puts limits on public comment. When the reality is that the city is violating the rights of the public with the rules it has proposed to adopt. Rules must enhance the public’s ability to address the board, but apparently the Pantagraph must think people should by forcibly silenced.
Next they talk about the City of Normal and County of McLean’s rules – conveniently forgetting to mention that those rules violate the Open Meetings Act and cannot survive a legal challenge. Pantagraph even goes so far as urging the City of Bloomington to adopt the most restrictive set of rules we have ever seen. This action would only invite litigation and I predict the city would lose, needlessly costing the taxpayers more money.
Finally, they claim the city has important business to discuss and shouldn’t have to waste its time messing with trivial issues like public comment citing “ample” opportunities to contact their elected officers. The Pantagraph must have forgotten that the Illinois Legislature has stated public comment during public meetings is a RIGHT – and violations of that right can subject public officials to arrest, criminal charges, fines, and imprisonment. No other opportunity to address public officials is a right – except for public comment at meetings.
One thing I have noticed after several years of investigative reporting, is that when public bodies start changing rules, especially rules for public comment, to further restrict the public’s ability to address and petition their government, there is something that public body is trying to hide – and it is only a matter of time before we find out what it is.
To the Pantagraph, I say shutter your doors now, you would do the citizen a better service to quit and go home, than to stab them in the back by publishing opinions like this one.
Media’s refusal to remain silent is the first line of defense against public corruption.