There has been much debate on Rule 10-A -- the proposed amendment to the North Adams City Council Rules of Order aiming to ban messaging -- and the change could come to a vote at the council's Jan. 22 meeting. But whether the rule change passes or fails, we would caution that such an idea even being suggested represents a problem that begs for a solution.
This rule, still under review by City Solicitor John DeRosa as of December's last council meeting, is on its face too broad for its purpose. The proposal is directed at prohibiting slanderous signs and clothing bearing such messaging from entering council meetings. However, it has wording we think could be interpreted to prevent electronic devices and even stop invited presenters from doing their job.
However, this does not mean the root problem 10-A is looking at shouldn't be addressed in some more refined fashion. We're loath to support anything that limits free speech, but if people can't act like adults in a public forum, then perhaps it's time to start directly controlling behavior with new rules.
After all, it is the endemic glut of childish behavior at council meetings, particularly on the part of members of the public, that leads to such proposals being made.
Robert Cardimino said at the Dec. 26 council meeting that the public being allowed to debate with the council would erase the need for rules like 10-A, but he got it wrong: People acting with decorum and maturity would erase the need for 10-A.
Don't misunderstand: We acknowledge that members of the council are guilty of this sort of behavior as well, as recently evidenced by Council President Michael Bloom's outburst and Councilor John Barrett's constant use of meetings for stump speeches and the airing of petty grievance.
It all casts a pallor, whether the disruption is from councilors or private citizens.
We also recognize that not all regularly attending members of the public or all councilors are culpable here. But you know what they say about bad apples.
Rule 10-A may not be the right instrument for solving what plagues council proceedings, but we urge all involved to recognize that it is indicative of a larger quandary that needs resolution, and to work together to hone to an edge the proper scalpel with which to cut out this blight.