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By Paul N. Wyatt, Dana Point
During the Public Comments segment of the April 19 Dana Point City Council meeting, Councilman Joe Muller responded to a speaker with a personal attack. The councilman’s behavior was unprofessional, discourteous and unacceptable.
The Mayor opens the Public Comments segment of each City Council meeting by reminding the speakers that all remarks are to be directed to the City Council and shall not consist of any personal attacks. The Mayor further reminds the members of the public that they are expected to maintain a professional, courteous decorum and recently has asked that they refrain from any clapping and cheering. I believe that the members of our City Council deserve this respect and I even more strongly believe that speakers deserve this same respect from the members of the council.
If all the citizens of Dana Point always agreed with the action of their City Council, the council meetings could just be love fests; but that is unlikely. The public portion of each City Council meeting is purposely to allow the citizens to express the support for, or disagreements with, the actions of the council. In the many council meetings that I have attended on watched on the television broadcast, I have rarely seen the council respond in any way to public comments and I have never seen the council change their action based on these comments. While this is frustrating to the speakers at times, it is accepted and does not result in personal attacks of the members of the council.
In the April 19 council meeting, a member of the public was granted permission to speak. The speaker expressed concern on the title and wording of Measure I, the City Council sponsored ballot measure. She expressed her belief that by creating a city-sponsored measure with the stated intent of negating the citizen-sponsored measure, the council had created confusion. She further stated that by using a title for the city-sponsored measure that was not backed up by the text of the measure, the council was intentionally misleading the voters of Dana Point. In delivering her remarks, the speaker was professional and courteous.
Councilman Muller responded to the speaker by calling her out by name, stating that her comments were offensive and that she attended every council meeting and presented public comments that were offensive to the council and saying he had no idea where she was coming from making such comments. Furthermore, his statement that “Measure H started this,” sounded like it came from an 8-year-old, not a city councilman. While no one expected Councilman Muller, nor certain other members of the council to agree with the speaker, the personal attack was unprofessional, discourteous and unacceptable; in other words, inappropriate. Such actions have a chilling effect on members of the public who have not only a right, but a civic duty to speak up when they believe the council is not representing citizens’ interests.