It's been said that while you have freedom of speech, that does not mean you have freedom from the consequences of that speech.
Iowa City has apparently been seeing an increasing problem with rowdy disruptors at their city council meetings. It's gotten to the point, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, that they were looking at imposing civil penalties including fines of up to $750 if order couldn't be restored after first, a warning, and then an ejection from the meeting.
This discussion came about after a trio of residents continually hoarded the public comment period with their requests to hold hybrid meetings, and other off-subject discussions, taking up to 90 minutes of time from each meeting. The January 4 meeting addressed this, and the council began offering virtual comment periods, but the disruptions apparently did not cease.
You're on Mute
It's a first-world problem, but a problem nonetheless. From Mayor Pro Tem Megan Alter's perspective, the goal is not to silence residents or stifle engagement, but to get through meetings in a timely, orderly fashion. With today's technology, it would seem the easiest way to curb public disruption would be to "mute" problematic speakers, but they fear that would lessen overall engagement from the public.
Back to the drawing board
Hopefully, these recent open discussions of why this is an issue will curb some of the disruptive behavior, but the city council did agree to further discuss different solutions to the problem that would not include financial penalties.
They will not impose the fines or issue civil citations but will continue looking for "new tools in their toolbox", to quote Mayor Bruce Teague in the Daily Iowan.
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