- Alex Zimmerman, left, and Sam Bellomio at council yesterday. (That's not a bad screen shot, that's his actual facial expression.)
Addressing Bellomio and Zimmerman by name, she said they've been dealing with these guys "for many months now," and while Zimmerman shouted something from the audience about "America" and "Nazis," she explained that the council is working with the city clerk to amend the public comment rules. Concerned that disruptive commenters infringe on other people's right to comfortably speak during comment periods and disrupt the council's ability to do business, she said the new rules will govern "repeated noncompliance with council rules for public comment" and set forth specific, predetermined suspension times for repeat offenders.
The exchange itself was an example of why these guys end up being a problem at meetings instead of just kooky anti-government performance artists. Clark joked during Zimmerman's outburst, "That was almost on cue; that was fantastic."
I asked her about the potential rules today—and why she then let them both sign up to speak again, even though she'd told Bellomio he was suspended from doing so. (Bellomio went on to get pissed that she'd used his name and to announce, "This is worse than Nazi Germany!" Zimmerman called the council "banditos.") She said she had realized she didn't want to police the content of anyone's testimony. "I don't like the whole practice of trying to figure out where have they crossed the line with a particular word," she said. The real issue is around conduct that disrupts meetings, and the repetition of that behavior, which is what new rules will address. "I shouldn't get to draw that line on content any more than anyone else," she admitted. "Would I prefer that he not call council members dicks? Yeah, absolutely. Call me crazy." But that's not the real problem. And when it comes to keeping the meeting in order, she has some discretion as council president to prevent disruption; amended rules, which she expects will be finished around the New Year, will spell out exactly what the consequences might be.
And I'll say this: Anyone who makes Stranger staff root wholeheartedly for the city council is pretty damn impressive. Nothing makes the council appear more sympathetic and reasonable than watching 'em patiently and effectively deal with stuff like this.