My Turn: Constituents, the Constitution and the Juneau Assembly

Posted: Friday, February 14, 2003

A display of hostility by an Assembly member, not the audience, disrupted the CBJ meeting on Monday night. Assembly member Dale Anderson delivered a tongue-lashing to audience members who expressed appreciation for the words of three speakers through their enthusiastic applause. Pamela Findley, an attorney, Raymond Gallegos, a veteran, and Michael James, student body president at JDHS, spoke in support of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights and against those sections of the USA Patriot Act, Homeland Security legislation and certain executive orders that violate citizen rights to privacy and freedoms guaranteed under the U.S. and Alaska constitutions.

Their heartfelt eloquence moved the overflow audience to supportive applause. This prompted Mr. Anderson to invoke a passage of Robert's Rules of Order, under Disciplinary Procedures, regarding "Protection from Annoyance by the Non-members in a Meeting." He fumed in righteousness against what he evidently considered inappropriate public behavior. This rankled the crowd and brought a chorus of disapproval, including hisses, boos and shouts of "No!" in response. Mr. Anderson turned to the mayor to reinstate decorum and business on the agenda was resumed. He renewed his complaint at the end of the meeting during individual Assembly member comments.

The kicker in all this is the selectivity with which Mr. Anderson quoted the "Rules." My interest in the whole situation led me to the City Clerk's Office on Tuesday to get a look at the pertinent printed source for Mr. Anderson's tough talk. Turns out the "protection from annoyance by a non-member" refers to "any person who attempts to disrupt the proceedings in a manner obviously hostile to the announced purpose of the meeting. ... (this person) can be treated as a non-member under the provisions of this paragraph." I think Mr. Anderson would be hard put to explain how the supportive applause for democratic ideals was at all "disruptive" to order or hostile to the purpose of the meeting! On the other hand, his provocative words and intent sort've, kinda, fit the definition of "annoyance."

The city clerks remembered there once had been an ordinance passed to regulate audience demonstrations, but that it had been subsequently repealed. On Monday evening, a patient crowd of about 80 citizens accepted that only three of the 14 who signed up to speak on the proposed resolution were selected for public testimony on non-agenda items. One other person had signed up to speak on a different topic. A total of 20 minutes is the standard maximum allowed at the beginning of an Assembly meeting for this opportunity. Mayor Sally Smith introduced Jeffrey Herman, producing director for Perseverance Theatre, to speak first. He announced the prestigious grant of $500,000 from the Doris Duke Foundation, the need to match it, other financial awards to Perseverance and plans to travel with the "Vagina Monologue" production. All these achievements were greeted with appreciative applause by the audience. Evidently, that demonstration did not constitute "annoyance" to Mr. Anderson who, in a huff after referencing Robert's Rules, sputtered that "those people (in the chambers) are obviously not my constituents." Well, I don't see how he could know that, but maybe he has the ability to forecast the future.

Dixie Hood is a former Assembly candidate who has spent many hours in the audience at Perseverance as well as the CBJ Assembly.

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