NORTH ADAMS -- A proposed change to the City Council's Rules of Order, which sought to ban from council chambers any sign, electronic device or article of clothing displaying a graphic or lettered message, met with an anticlimactic end last week.
Councilors voted to file the controversial "Rule 10a" without taking any action on it during their Jan. 22 meeting. The decision followed two meetings of the council's General Governance Committee at which Rule 10a was the primary focus and which resulted in a lengthy opinion from City Solicitor John DeRosa and a letter in opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Prior to the unanimous vote, Councilor Keith Bona, who chairs the General Governance Committee, said at the committee's Dec. 20 meeting, DeRosa had stated that while most of the proposed rule was unconstitutional, that he had spoken with a member of the ACLU and come to an agreement that a ban on signs would be OK, as long as it was applied across the board and was not used to target individuals.
While DeRosa did provide language for a rule that would ban signs at the committee's January meeting, Bona said the committee ultimately voted against recommending the rule.
"During the [general governance] meeting [I said I] wouldn't support this rule, not because of legal opinions or threats of being sued, but because it would be adding a rule that doesn't solve our main problem with meetings getting out of hand," he said. "We have only had one or two meetings where a sign has been an issue, while we have had numerous meetings where conduct has been an issue. This rule doesn't stop a message from being printed on a T-shirt, so what difference does it make?"
In other action, the council voted to amend Council Rule 1, striking language that designated specific times for committee meetings to be held.
The council also amended a rule defining liaison assignments to include the city's Parks and Recreation Commission.