Devers Has it Right
More Speech is Always Better
City Councilor Marcos Devers was council president
(2001-2003) there were no limits on discussion. Members
of the public and fellow councilors had no limit on
debate as long as the topic was on the agenda.
Devers had a basic philosophy that his fellow councilors
would be wise to adopt; more speech is always better.
Unfortunately, the Lawrence City Council is now
entertaining a proposal to limit discussion and debate on
all issues, relevant or not.
Sure it may be inconvenient when the public or even
fellow councilors abuse their right of free speech. But
to put an arbitrary time limit on all debate stifles
legitimate discussion and ties the hands of the council
president when issues like the city budget, for example,
warrant an evening long debate.
It is true that during Devers tenure as Council
President some councilors made campaign speeches knowing
that the meetings were being televised on government
access channel 22. It is also true that some councilor
would drone on and on, repeating themselves ad nauseam,
resulting in very long meetings, sometimes lasting until
1 or 2am.
But, the council president always had the right to cut
off debate. The fact that Devers chose not to, or that
future presidents may be afraid to, is no reason to set a
policy limiting debate or discussion on important city
matters at a government meeting.
City Council meetings are not supposed to be structured
for the convenience of the councilors. Marcos Devers
understands that and publicly opposes the policy to cut
off speakers who might have more to say. Given the
history of back room deals and last minute changes made
to public proposals before a vote the result of such
speech limits would be chilling.
But Devers seems to be a lone voice in the wilderness on
this issue. At last count, the proposal submitted by
newly elected City Councilor Israel Reyes seems to have
the support of the majority of the council. Thats a
While it is understandable for councilors to try and move
the meetings along, putting a time limit on all debate,
legitimate or not, flies in the face of everything this
country stands for.
There is no need for this kind of proposal. The Council
president simply needs the courage to use his gavel when
the situation warrants. If his fellow councilors disagree
with his ruling they can always challenge him and vote to
overrule. That is, unless that kind of speech is limited
You can write to Tom Duggan by
sending an email to Tdugjr@aol.com
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comments to ValleyPatriot@aol.com
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