Opinion: It’s Too Easy to Lose the Message When Using Profanity


It’s just my opinion…

Public comment in our City Council meetings is a right, not a privilege, and we have First Amendment rights in this country to say whatever we want within certain legal limits.

Simply put, you cannot yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater because of a safety factor. On the other hand, the First Amendment gives you the right to use unacceptable words when expressing yourself during oral communications in a City Council meeting.

What are unacceptable words? Google seven words by George Carlin.

Last night during oral communications, a citizen came and spoke who had a philosophical disagreement with a councilmember. This is exactly what the First Amendment covers. At the end of his comments, he used a four-letter word. Did he have the right to do so? Yes. Should he have done it? Absolutely not.

Why should people self-censor? Simply put, a wide range of people watch meetings, including children who may be interested in politics or the workings of the city of Burbank. While I am sure they’ve probably heard the word used before, we then lose the context of what was being talked about, and the word becomes the narrative.

The late Mike Nolan, who graced the council chambers for decades, had a wealth of information. He often reminded the council about past dealings that many of them were unaware of. Undoubtedly, he knew his Burbank history as well as anybody in this city.

However, Mike, at times, would throw tangents, sometimes yelling at the mayor and council members instead of just making his point. I learned so much from Mike over the years, but I was frustrated by his delivery. I tried to explain it to him, but Mike was Mike.

I, like many others, Do not always agree with things that are said at the council meetings. I do agree, however, that we have the right to question policies and people in a civil way. Understanding other people’s opinions is just as important as knowing your own opinions. Everybody has a right to their own opinion, which is what separates us as a democracy from a dictatorship. Sometimes we take our rights for granted way too often.

We have the right to speak up, and we have the right to protest. A citizen always has the right to be heard at a public council meeting. I am a full proponent of having oral communications before and after the meeting as well as during agenda items. City Council members can never forget that they are serving the public who voted for them.

To shorten public comment to make a meeting shorter is a violation of that trust. If you want to shorten the length of council meetings, then schedule more meetings with fewer agenda items instead of loading up one meeting that could last six or seven hours.

Respect is a two-way street. I’m not asking anyone to tone down their message or their feelings, but I am saying to use a civil tongue. It is OK to show passion but don’t let your message get lost in the gutter.

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    1. Some things just need to be said. I feel when you look the other way at a wrong being committed right in front of you, well… silence equals approval. I provided a copy of the tweets in question to each of the council members and the city clerk. They are now public documents for you (or anyone) to look at Mr. Sherwood. Are you defending what the Vice Mayor said? How about you give us your opinion on what HE said. Anthony was far more obscene in his tweets than I was.
      By the way, When Steve Ferguson said the word twice at a school board meeting, you said nothing. In fact another board member said “well, it’s just a word in the dictionary” Why the double standard?
      Also, you might want to google Cohen v. California “one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric”

    2. Craig,

      Burbankers are fortunate to have myBurbank.com as a platform to share their views. Yours is the last venue in Burbank where residents can share meaningful ideas with a large audience of local people.

      Colorful language is an interesting topic. I’ve been to quite a few homes where parents don’t filter and young children hear it all at an early age.

      Keep up the great work on here.

    3. Thanks for this nuanced examination and for doing it without outing the person. I appreciate the point you’ve made about it distracting from the message or becoming the message. I’ve never heard it articulated this way and I think it makes a lot of sense.

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