Friday, December 26, 2008

1st Amendment - Still Valid in Waukegan!

A Federal judge ruled last week that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is still alive and well in Waukegan.

In one comment within the stream of emails sent to me, one writer said, "This decision is for all those persons who speak out and exercise their First Amendment right to protest or challenge state action."

I wonder if this applies in Woodstock. Will it take a Federal case to secure our rights here?

The case: One part of it involved a protest in Waukegan over a towing ordinance in Waukegan that allowed police to tow and impound a vehicle operated by a person without a license and to impose a $500 fine on that person. Waukegan was accused of enforcing the ordinance unfairly against minorities.

I've seen those ordinances in other places. To me, they are clearly illegal seizure of property without due process.

When a man attempted to address the Waukegan City Council, the Waukegan mayor and city council unconstitutionally prohibited him from speaking during the public comment period of a City Council meeting in 2004.

Another part of the judge's finding pertained to "constitutional proscription against content-based discrimination" and said that nothing released the chief of police or the City of Waukegan from complying that constitutional provision.

So, what happens in Woodstock when a speaker in the public comment period of a City Council meeting puts forth an opinion that runs contrary to what the Council "wants to hear." Can the Mayor silence that person? According to a District Court Judge in Lake County, he cannot. Of course, that's in Lake County, not in McHenry County.

I suspect that this same good-sense decision should apply to Commissions appointed by the City Council. Just because a Commission chairman doesn't want to hear what the speaker is saying, he cannot silence him.

I invite the City Council to learn from the Waukegan decision and to educate the Commission chairmen and members as to the importance of allowing all opinions during meetings.

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