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Weaver cracks down on speakers

New rule limits them to as little as a single minute of comment.

April 19, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Council Member Ara Najarian, left, presents newly appointed Mayor Dave Weaver, right, with the gavel at Glendale City Hall on Monday, April 15, 2013.
Council Member Ara Najarian, left, presents newly appointed… (Photo by Libby Cline…)

There's a new mayor in town, and if you want to address him and his colleagues on the dais, you're going to have to keep it short.

As he led his first council meeting in his new position, Mayor Dave Weaver set new ground rules, including the freedom to limit public speakers who want to opine on agenda items to one minute.

While 1st Amendment advocates said one minute isn't enough time for most people to talk, state rules on setting public speaking times only require that officials be reasonable — and what's reasonable is up to interpretation.

"The question is, how little time is too little? It strikes me that one minute is too little," said Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition.

Typically, mayors give speakers between three to five minutes to share their points of view, but when there are dozens of people on a single item, it's been reduced in the past — a practice Terry Francke, general counsel of Californians Aware, said would pass the "reasonability test."

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In that case, "a mayor might reasonably decide that one minute for each is going to have to be the limit. On the other hand, if the council is sitting in an empty room, a minute would probably not be reasonable," Francke said.

When there were about 60 people crowding council chambers in January to weigh in on banning the Glendale Gun Show from city property, former Mayor Frank Quintero gave each speaker two minutes.

On Tuesday night, when just one speaker — City Hall critic Herbert Molano — wanted to speak on roughly $1.87 million in spending for helicopter equipment, Weaver gave him two minutes. But Leon Mayor, a Friends of the Glendale Public Library representative who also talks at almost every council meeting, was granted 4 1/2 minutes to describe upcoming events.

Others with event announcements that night only got three minutes. But giving one person more time than another on the same council agenda items, in this case event announcements, is a no-no, 1st Amendment advocates said.

Weaver said he will give speakers one to three minutes, depending on how much time he thinks an agenda item deserves. He said his goal is to speed up council meetings. In addition to laying out a plan for shorter speaker times, he asked his colleagues to keep comments about their weekly activities short.

The public "is not very excited to hear what council members have been doing the past week," Weaver said. "I hope we can tailor down the comments from staff and council members."

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Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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