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Fort Bragg Protocols

At the Fort Bragg City Council meeting of December 12th, new councilmembers Will Lee and Bernie Norvell will be sworn in. Next up, Vice Mayor Lindy Peters will will turn the meeting over to the City Clerk who will call for nominations for Mayor, close the nominations, and call for a vote.

Peters, Dave Turner, and Mike Cimolino make up the returning trio of councilmembers. This is being written during the weekend prior to the December 12th council meeting, but I will go out on a small limb to predict that Peters will be nominated and voted into the position of Fort Bragg City Mayor. It has been an on and off tradition that the highest vote-getter in the most recent election is nominated for the mayoralty, but said winner at the ballot box, Will Lee, is a first time office holder. In addition, the top vote-getter tradition was shunted after the 2014 election when Peters turned out to be the clear victor. Some who observed the nomination process in December, 2014 raised eyebrows at how (now outgoing) Councilmembers Deitz and Hammerstrom moved and seconded the nomination of Turner for mayor just nanoseconds after the city clerk finished asking for said nomination.

It may be more interesting to see who gets the Vice Mayor position. The safe bet is to place half your chips on Cimolino and half on Lee. If one accepts that the 2016 election was something of a repudiation of the status quo, then Turner must certainly be out of the running for either position. Lee could grab the Vice Mayor role based on the highest vote concept, though his ballot count was less than a hundred votes higher than Norvell's within a total ballot tally of more than 4,500. Cimolino may inherit the Vice Mayor-ship as the alternative to Turner among the old guard.

If the recent election proves to be a true victory for those most critical of the alleged Turner-Hammerstrom-Deitz regime, those who have been most vociferous in their denunciations of Turner and the outgoing councilmen as well as City Manager Linda Ruffing and City Planner Marie Jones may have missed something in the fine print of a recent City Council Consent Calendar.

The Fort Bragg City Council meeting in question occurred October 24th, when the concept of moving the Consent Calendar from the last item on the public agenda for each meeting to near the front of each meeting's agenda was itself approved in routine fashion as part of that evening's (you may have already guessed) Consent Calendar. See the August 31st AVA for an article predicting the whole deal would end up, ironically, as just that, a Consent Calendar afterthought, passed matter-of-factly.

The move of the Consent Calendar in the City Council agenda was a good thing, a needed change; however, the introduction of the idea in a Public Comments section of a summertime council meeting was done in a verbal fashion that can most charitably be described as overwrought, with the speaker demanding that the council take immediate action on the item. The precise placement of a Consent Calendar on a civic agenda is a fairly particular matter, one brought forward by individuals who presumably have performed a close reading of regulations regarding such agendas and the rules already governing the civic body in question. Therefore it would be reasonable to expect such individuals to be familiar with the Fort Bragg City Council rules about public comments on non-agenda items (when first addressed the movement of the Consent Calendar was non-agendized). Those rules state, “The Council welcomes input from the public. However, the Council cannot take action or deliberate on matters brought before them under Public Comments.”

I bring this up not simply to show up the individual who introduced the need to move the Consent Calendar to the front end of the Fort Bragg City Council agenda, but to bring up the matter of simple decorum at civic events. The same person who demanded the Consent Calendar be moved at its very first notice has also ranted, raved, screamed and shouted at other public meetings, most notably a couple of Fort Bragg Planning Commission official gatherings. A lot of people “lose it” now and again, but some folks on the Coast seem to think they are manning the barricades every time they get a microphone in hand.

I would hope that all of us are still in favor of public advocacy of causes we feel are just, but for Pete's sake can we tone it down five or six decibel levels? There may yet be issues that merit raised voices in the defense of the most basic of liberties, but I haven't seen a local issue in recent years that really required yelling and screaming at neighbors who just happen to serve on councils, committees, and/or commissions. Heaven knows there's plenty of room on the internet for abusive written words.

It may be instructive for some or all to read the Fort Bragg City Council's regulations regarding comments from the public. They were printed for any and all to read as part of the supporting materials for that October 24th meeting (finding them is relatively simple at the Fort Bragg City website: “All speakers before the City Council shall proceed to the podium and wait to be recognized by the Presiding Officer. Additional information regarding addressing the City Council is found in Section 5 below.”

We'll get to Section 5 in a moment. First a bit more from the city's rules about public speaking, “The Mayor shall decide all questions of order.”

These rules of order and decorum also bear some application to council members themselves. “No member of the City Council shall be permitted to interrupt another during debate or discussion of any subject.”

And now the promised Section 5: “Any member of the public desiring to address the City Council shall proceed to the podium and wait to be recognized by the Presiding Officer. All remarks and questions shall be addressed to the Mayor or acting Mayor and not to any individual Councilmember, staff member or other person. No person shall enter into any discussion without being recognized by the Mayor or acting Mayor.”

For those who have been the most vocally critical of how Fort Bragg City government has been run in recent years, they might want to consider how lax the presiding officers have actually been in enforcing this last part about directly addressing specific councilmembers or staff members by name. It may be an interesting matter to see how a new mayor approaches the subject of outlandish behavior by public speakers.

(Comments at the author's website,, though welcomed and encouraged, will be subject to the constantly shifting whims of the webmaster.)

One Comment

  1. David Gurney December 18, 2016

    Granny Malcolm must be suffering from early onset dementia. Without spending too much time going into details, lets just say his latest stab at creative writing is once again false, misleading, inaccurate and unreadable. The consent calendar was moved, but not without some heavy lifting, with reasons and results which the priggish Mr. MacDonald reveals himself to be totally unaware of. More on his stilted, narcissistic “reporting” later but for now – Happy Holidays to you too, Old Mickey D!

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