West Hollywood’s City Council voted 4-1 to adopt rules of conduct for people attending city meetings Monday night, including proper attire, signs/symbolic materials brought to meetings and language used during the public comment period, including whistling, catcalls and foot stomping while a person is speaking.
“The item that the city manager brought to us on the code of conduct was really to ensure that people actually get to say what they want at council meetings and commission meetings,” explained Mayor Abbe Land. “We want to make sure that people feel comfortable when they express their opinion and will not be threatened and be talked at by other folks. It is really important that we treat each other with respect and that you can say anything that you want.”
Cursing is no longer allowed during public comment time. Shirts and shoes must be worn. Posters and banners can only be 2 feet by 3 feet and can’t obstruct the view of other attendees. Food and drinks aren’t allowed in the council chamber.
The rules were made in response to several recent incidents. At an early March council meeting, approximately eight audience members sitting in the front two rows held up candidate signs above their heads, blocking the view of those behind them. At a late March meeting, a public commenter repeatedly called city staff members “f–kers” while complaining about the extension of parking meter hours.
Councilmember John D’Amico was the one vote against the item.
“I’m concerned that that sends the chilling effect of people who come to the podium and have something to say,” said D’Amico. “I’m agreeing with my colleagues and the city that the code of conduct is incredibly important, but I want anyone who comes to the podium to please say whatever you want. That’s your two minutes. You have the opportunity to tell us what you think.”
The conduct code does not go into effect until the council votes on it a second time. That was good news for resident Michael Crosby, who showed up at Monday’s meeting wearing nothing but a Speedo bathing suit. Crosby was there to encourage the council to approve the new recreation center and accompanying swimming pools.