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Daily Pilot

Council decides: Here's what could get you kicked out of meetings

By Bradley Zint

4:09 PM PDT, July 17, 2014

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Earlier this month, approval on the first reading for a Costa Mesa ordinance regulating permissible conduct at public meetings garnered some two hours of debate and discussion.

On Tuesday, the approval took less than two minutes.

With a 4-1 vote, the council expedited its second reading of the ordinance that codifies a list of disorderly behaviors that could potentially get attendees kicked out of meetings.

As she did during the July 1 first reading, Councilwoman Wendy Leece dissented.

The behaviors include speaking out of turn, speaking longer than the permissible three minutes or throwing objects at council members. Enforcement would begin with a warning and could proceed to a ban or misdemeanor charge.

Earlier this month, the council took out using profanity or being "unduly repetitive" in public comments as disorderly behaviors, a decision that took the steam out of some public speakers who were going to argue that being repetitive is a First Amendment right.

Still, Leece contended during the July 1 meeting that the rules would have a "chilling effect" on free expression, effectively putting people "on notice" because "you better think twice because you might be arrested."

The ordinance came as a result of a recent federal court ruling that Costa Mesa's previous description of unpermitted speech was unconstitutional.

That code banned "personal, impertinent, profane, insolent or slanderous remarks."

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Annexation delay

The council unanimously voted to postpone its annexation effort of Santa Ana/Colleen Island, a nearly 14-acre parcel of unincorporated land abutting the Eastside that has about 150 residents.

Mayor Jim Righeimer called for city staff to arrange a meeting with Santa Ana/Colleen residents and the developer of a roughly 2-acre vacant parcel there.

Righeimer said he and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger recently met with Santa Ana/Colleen residents there, who expressed concerns about setback spacing on any new homes.