Down the Memory Hole

By On

At Monday night’s Bellingham City Council meeting, contrary to the Bellingham Herald’s reporting, Tim Eyman created a serious disturbance. Just as the meeting was about to begin at 7 p.m., Eyman took over the council chamber, yelling questions and demanding to be heard. His refusal to stop created at least a 25 minute delay to the start of the meeting. Eyman was demanding that the council immediately change, that night, the wording of an emergency bill. The bill in question was to set up a council of three that, in times of emergency, could make decisions and enact provisions quickly; their emergency powers are broad, and were the point of Eyman’s objection. He also demanded that he and each of his 17 supporters be allowed to speak to the council. Council had notified the public over a week ago that for safety reasons there would be no live comments, but it welcomed email. Eyman did not care.

It took Fleetwood several minutes, using quiet, soothing words, to finally calm Eyman down. Police officers put themselves in the well of the chamber as a protective measure. Eyman would not leave when council president Gene Knudson asked him to, so the council evacuated the chamber. It was a total disruption of the meeting - and increased the danger of the virus spreading among those present. Video shows Eyman’s complete disregard for social distancing.

Knudson did the right thing. At the end of the council meeting, he apologized for getting as worked up as he did. Yet, had the council taken comments, it would have been mob rule. The rest of us, who stayed away from the meeting, were not there to counter Eyman’s supporters, so the opposing view would not have been heard. Of course that is not even the point. The point is, Eyman is not shy about disrupting and disturbing a public meeting to serve his own causes.

But now the mayor is down playing it, and the incident is not included on the city web page report of the meeting. The official summary report says the meeting started at 7 p.m, when it did not actually start until at least 7:25. And Knudson’s apology is left out of the meeting summary - pretending there was no incident. It must be included in the public record of the meeting. It happened. The City of Bellingham web page should be corrected to reflect the facts.

A couple of us at NWCitizen were watching the meeting live on BTV. We decided that because no one was hurt, and the meeting was eventually held, we would not report it. Now, the Herald online has a 16 minute video of Eyman holding the council chamber hostage. But the print edition minimizes it all. Mayor Fleetwood reportedly sent an email to the Herald saying there was no disturbance. Well, that was nice of him to want to downplay it, but it is not the truth. So there it goes, down the memory hole.

The council held their meeting, no public comments were taken, and the emergency bill was passed unanimously. To watch the video, you need not go to the Herald, as you can view it on Reddit. By the way, Eyman did not even know the mayor of Bellingham. He was arguing with Fleetwood but did not know his name or that he was mayor. Eyman drove here from Seattle with the apparent intent to disrupt our city council meeting and try to bully our council members.

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Ryan Knowlton

Mar 26, 2020

Eyman’s outrage was due to both Everett and Bellingham’s emergency bill’s containing authoritarian language regarding freedom of speech and gun rights, with the wording stating that even possessing guns during the emergency would be a chargable offense. This is no time to be removing the ability for the law abiding citizens to defend themselves, when jails and prisons are releasing “non-violent” offenders, law enforcement is overwhelmed, store shelves run empty, and thousands of people have lost their jobs and are becoming more desperate by the day.  These cities have verbally insured us that this was not the case, but the “legalese” in the bills appears to be sloppy and if enforced as written would be in violation of our 1st and 2nd amendment rights. 

I understand the importance of emergency measures being put in place to locally expedite decisions in battling the virus to our best capabilities and unlock funding, but they should not be used as a power grab to satisfy a political party agenda. 

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Tim Paxton

Mar 26, 2020

Thanks for the coverage John. Reminds me of Mayor Asmundson tactics.  I.e. pack the room with armed police to dis-encourage comments.

I wonder if the City could have found a larger venue, in about 5 minutes?  Gene Knudson tried to blame the CDC for “safety” restrictions  for no comments while staff used the same mic all night.

Nice how quick they were to bring out the guns on behalf of the City.   It seems that if the Council was going to tromp on Guaranteed Rights and change the City Charter and not allow comment, they might have expected some vocal push back.   Even with ignoring their Oath of Office, this could have been forseen.   Mr. Eyeman’s refreshing appearance could not have been a big surprise.  

It seems  that Cities have limited jurisdiction to only enforce infractions, ordinances and Class C Misdemeanors (small fine only, no jail, no arrest or seizure.)   This is the same Municipal jurisdiction found in most other States.

I am not sure that the Council know they are likely, with this emergency ordiance, now in violation of Title 18, Section 242.  Well outside of their scope of their presumed authority, even if self granted.  They may face law suits with personal liability, unprotected by the City.

If they enact a new emeregency clause, which changes the City Charter, of having only 3 council members required , does this mean Comrade Fleetwood can enact “Primae noctis” for council members now with onlyi two votes? 

 

 

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John Servais

Mar 26, 2020

Ryan, I agree with you on the dangers of this and all emergency bill authorizations.  I also do not like the governor’s actions suspending the open meetings act.  And, if you watch the video of the city council meeting towards the end, you will see council member Hannah Stone, a lawyer, taking issue with city attorney Ruffato’s wording of the authorizing motion.  She caught him wording the bill to make it harder for the city council to end the emergency.  There was a power grab attempt by the administration - and one of our elected representatives caught it and spoke up.  We may love progressive Seth Fleetwood as mayor but we demand to continue our representative government and not hand over authority to a troika.  Hannah showed her stuff.  We thank her.

Where I object is for Eyman to disrupt and disturb.  He should have been arrested, handcuffed and frog marched out of there and booked for several counts related to public disturbance.  We have seen good citizens obeying all the rules at a council meeting be roughly treated and shut down by the council - and a few years ago by police force.  But no one wanted to touch Eyman so he was allowed to hold the entire  council chamber hostage for half an hour while the police looked on.  

There is no excuse for Eyman’s behavior.  Outrage at a pending legislation is of zero value for disrupting a legislative meeting.  What America is about is representative government with transparency.  We hardly live up to that, but we do not use force or violence.  We have the ballot box and we can speak out.  And, as we do here on this website, push for transparency in government processes.   Eyman should have been at the least excorted out of that room by the police.  Any citizen of Bellingham would have been if they had tried that.  

Tim makes a very good point.  The council closed public comments because of possible contamination of the microphone and public podium.  Then we have government staff persons coming and going from that podium and microphone, adjusting it and touching their faces, for over an hour.  Absolutely no wiping down of the equipment between speakers.  So the worry about public comment dangers is probably very false, and the council simply did not want to listen to a lot of citizens.  Still, there is no excuse for forced intrusion.  

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Sam Crawford

Mar 26, 2020

Whatcom council wants to prosecute Occupy members who disrupted meeting

March 13, 2012 Bellingham Herald, 
JOHN STARK
 
 

BELLINGHAM - Whatcom County Council members expressed support for criminal prosecution of those who led a Feb. 28 disruption of a council meeting, if that’s what it takes to bar those people from future meetings.

“There’s nothing worse for democracy than disrupting the public process,” council member Barbara Brenner said at a Tuesday, March 13, council discussion. “I don’t want them to be able to come into this meeting again.”

Council members made it clear that they favored prosecution of perhaps one or two individuals whom they believe were leaders of the Feb. 28 disruption, in which members of the Occupy movement shouted and chanted to show their displeasure with a change in council meeting procedure that moved the public comment period further down the agenda. Council members were not talking about prosecution of everyone who participated.

They appeared to be ready to take a vote to endorse the pressing of charges against those unnamed individuals, when Whatcom County Prosecutor Dave McEachran told them no vote was necessary. He said his office would review video recordings and other evidence and decide whether misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct were appropriate.

McEachran also told the council that a criminal conviction was the only feasible legal strategy to bar troublemakers from future council meetings, permanently or for some fixed period. He said a judge could impose that as a condition of sentencing, if anyone is convicted.

If there are further disruptions, McEachran advised Council Chairwoman Kathy Kershner to warn the perpetrators and order them to leave. Anyone who refused to do so could be prosecuted for disorderly conduct.

“The law is very clear on this,” McEachran said.

Council members also discussed the pros and cons of filming disruptive protests in their chambers and allowing their actions to be broadcast as part of the regular council meeting. During the Feb. 28 meeting, video contractor Lynn Barton shut off the camera when the protest erupted and most council members walked out.

Council member Pete Kremen said he thought that was the right approach.

“I don’t feel we should put the cameras on them, because that’s what they want,” Kremen said.

McEachran said a video of a disruption was valuable evidence.

“I understand the concern that it would be giving them what they want,” McEachran said. “It would certainly be giving me what I want.”

Council members then discussed editing disruptions out of the video before it could be shown on the public cable channel, but McEachran said that might be an illegal editing of a public record.

Council member Ken Mann pointed out that the protesters made their own video of the event to post on YouTube.

Kremen suggested installation of security cameras to provide evidence if regular meeting cameras are shut down. County Facilities Manager Mike Russell said the county has such cameras in other courthouse locations, and they have been used to identify and prosecute vandals. Adding a couple more to the council chambers would cost perhaps $2,000 to $3,000, he said.

Council members unanimously endorsed that move.

“I hope somebody tells those people that they’re costing the 99 percent,” Brenner said.

Kershner said she would work with council staff members to develop a procedure for warning disruptive people and summoning law enforcement if disruptions continue.

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Gene Knutson

Mar 27, 2020

Tim, Compare how we handled Eyman compared to the Edmonds City Council, Police escorted him out of their chambers for doing what he did with us. Hardly a “Refeshing Appearance”

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Alex McLean

Mar 27, 2020

The Reddit social media platform, which John linked for finding the video of Eyman’s political histrionics, deploys a useful methodology for assessing opinion: The most popular comments — those with the most ‘thumbs-up’ appraisals — get rotated to the top of the comment threads. Aside from being weirdly Democratic in this way, it is a bit revealing that the most succinct review of Eyman’s theater performance was also the consensus winner, by far, with at least 92 people agreeing with Reddit member uraeu5’s analysis that “Tim Eyman is a dipshit. Thats all there is to know.”

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Tim Paxton

Mar 27, 2020

Seems like a waste of everyone’s time to eagerly pass City “laws” which are on their face unconstitutional.  I.e. infringing on arms or limiting free assembly and free speech or travel, etc.  I am sure everyone can look up Marbury vs Madison. : “A Law repugnant to the Constitution is void.”   Which means the cool new City laws are already void and can ignored with impunity and anyone charged has a perfect defense for willfulness since the the U.S. Citizen is relying on previous Supreme Court decisions.

If the Council does not love the U.S. Constitution, they can always  go and organize a Constitutional Convention and get the amendments to the Bill of Rights changed.   (Not sure if you are going to have much luck getting Prohibition back.)   You all took an OATH to support and defend the U.S. Constituion, remember?   It is offensive to the retired or active Military families and veterans of Bellingham to see the City wipe its feet on our Constituionally guaranteed rights.  

It is risky for the Council to pass laws outside the legal scope and authority of the City, i.e. regulating parking fines, trash and littering ordinances, etc.   Anyone arrested or charged can turn around and sue the Council and j Mayor/ police directly and personally.  Which is the likely result of these laws.  Time to remove them or face the consequences.   U.S.C. Article 18, Section 242.    Good luck.

 

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Gene Knutson

Mar 27, 2020

Tim, With all do respect I have known you for years, we did not pass these laws last Monday night they have been on the books since 1977,I did not know they were even there and the rest of the council and staff didn’t either. We are going to take a look at that old code in the coming weeks. We don’t have a meeting unti April 13th I hope we can have a real meeting and not a computer one. Just be reassured nobody on this council or mayor or police will be taking anybody’s guns and liquor away period. Also we will have a public hearing and hear everybody’s voice on this I promise you that. 

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Larry Horowitz

Mar 27, 2020

Gene, I appreciate that council has no plans to trigger the options that might limit second amendment rights.  And I understand that council was not familiar with the 1977 law.  But the city attorney’s office was clearly familiar with the law as they chose to modify the regulations and even added a new potential power that could be invoked.  Seems pretty sloppy that the city attorney was not better prepared to address these concerns and that the city attorney did not prepare council for Eyman’s visit.  Many of us who rarely pay attention knew that Eyman, who is running for governor, would be attending the meeting as the savior of the second amendment.

I’m no fan of Eyman’s, and I believe he and his colleagues blew the entire issue out of proportion, but I was disappointed that the city was not better prepared for an appearance he announced well before the 7 pm meeting.

In any event, I continue to appreciate your steady hand on the tiller and wish you and your colleagues the best.

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Jerry Vekved

Mar 28, 2020

Mr. Knutson, did you read and study your packet before the meeting?  

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Gene Knutson

Mar 28, 2020

Yes I did sir as I have for the past twenty seven years. I knew exactly what I was voting for and not voting for. I am not going to do a tit for tat on this site we are going through a horrible health crises and I am working day and night on that. I want to thank John and all the years of this site for great dialogue for over twenty five years. I will sign off with this, Please all of you stay healthy!!

 

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Ryan Knowlton

Mar 30, 2020

John,

I agree that the way Eyman conducted himself was uncalled for, but the points of his concern valid nonetheless. I think the City of Bellingham letting him speak, however unpleasant many found it, was the right thing to do in not violating his rights and is likely the reason the whole event was “downplayed” afterwards. Everett showed their “Hitler” in the way they had police remove him in my opinion.  

Understand that our state legislature rolls out and passes countless pieces of legislation on everything from taxes, to gun, property, and water rights that contain unconstituational measures. These measures go into effect immediately, and negatively effect the lives of our states citizens while their validity is argued in court and ultimately many are overturned for being unconstitutional months or even years later. Then the state accepts no accountability for the lives they upended in the interim with their unconstitutional legislation. While I don’t agree with everything Eyman does, he’s generally on the front lines against the state to keep them in check, and sadly is one of only a few that are taking any action. A poll posted on another popular forum, posted results of 68% of its voters agreeing that “the WA state government has moved away from the consent of the governed”.

To those on the city council, we understand in this health crisis you’ve got to move fast to enact orders and declarations to put plans in place and unlock funding critical to dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak. Unfortunately, at the same time, you have to be more cautious and better communicate with the people because what I bolded above has eroded the peoples trust in our gov’t.

 

   

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