Letter to the Editor: Vile Behavior at Public Meetings is Unacceptable

I’ve lived in this community for most of my life. I’ve worked for the community for 33 years. I’ve attended countless council meetings.

On Tuesday, March 6, at the beginning of the agenda item — public safety tax — the city manager and staff gave a lengthy overview of what the initiative entailed, further the city manager invited any citizen or citizen group to meet with him when possible to allow him to show where the city budget is and to suggest possible solutions he and staff have not thought of with the promise to be transparent.

I witnessed some of the worst examples of lack of civility from some speakers during public comment. For some reason many speakers did not speak to the issue at hand — public safety — but spoke in angry vile tones; even calling council members “stupid” and “idiots”.

In the country we live in we have the freedom we do to speak because of those who fought and have given their lives to do so, as well as courts upholding our constitutional rights of freedom of speech, including the right to disagree.

But for the life of me I don’t understand how any citizen in our wonderful community can feel they are doing the right thing by hurling vile insults at public officials in a public forum.

If the table was turned I’m sure those people would be highly offended.

I’m embarrassed.

Bob Blankenship, retired Redding Police Chief, Redding

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44 Responses

  1. Yes Chief,

    And too often those throwing down the verbal tirade will not lift a finger either physically or metaphorically to help. Our poor village is returning to Poverty Flat not because of absence of wealth but because of a poverty stricken will to shoulder the common good and march together. We need more Shasta Support Service than self serving rants in public places. Thanks for reminding us that “free speech” is not license to degrade and burn. Did the riots of 1967-8 give us lasting benefit? Getting angry is not the same as getting better.

  2. Avatar Barbara Grosch says:

    Thank you Bob. I couldn’t agree more. It is embarrassing.
    What kind of example are we setting for our children and grandchildren?

  3. Avatar don cohen says:

    Well said, I am amazed that anyone is willing to serve given the level of abuse. I think Redding should adopt anewscafe’s comment policy.

  4. Avatar Gary Solberg says:

    Totally agree Bob. Though I was not present at the meeting, I am well aware that many in our civil society show an unfortunate lack civility and respect.

  5. Avatar conservative says:

    I wish the author could be more specific about the groups with uncivil behavior. In the ChicoER and Eureka Times Standard, uncivil discourse does not seem to be an issue in Chico and Eureka.

  6. It’s not so much a group per se, but individuals who apparently meet for coffee and rehearse their ridiculous dialogue that makes them feel heightened. If you notice they leave the dais with wide smiles on their faces, then high-five themselves. All along claiming to have gleaned success at tweaking the council members and their decisions. However, several of the ‘coffee clatch’ group are part of the remaining/dying Tea Party and State of Jefferson folk; those who drive around town in their large tire pickups with double XX bumpers stickers, spewing diesel smoke. Not one having done something concrete for our City. And you can’t compare progressive Chico and Eureka with Redding politics, why ?…. they have an educational institution called a university, this tends to produce civil individuals.

    • Avatar Virginia says:

      Unfortunately, your comments didn’t do much to help the situation!

    • Avatar Marc Carter says:

      Frank, I must agree and say that you are entirely correct. Obnoxious large-tire pickups, double XX stickers & all.

      Chico and Eureka/Arcata have the distinction and sophistication of state college campuses lending a positive civil presence of education and enlightenment to their local communities.

      Redding having no state college reflects… sort of the opposite, regrettably.

      Of course, there is Bethel to help shore up proper police enforcement needs (eventually at a cost) due to C o R’s financial woes. Time will reveal how that works out.

    • Avatar Pat says:

      Frank, I think you are blaming out of turn. What proof do you have that the dialogue of ill is from Tea Party or State of Jefferson. Now I have never been to a Tea Party meeting, but know many of the attendees, they are very nice people. As for the State of Jefferson, I just won’t believe what you have said. I have attended many meetings for SoJ51, and the people there are very nice, and it is a standing rule that you get more done with kindness than being belligerent.

      While I agree many of our citizens do not have respect, I believe your liberal attitude blames the parties you think are narrow minded and want to ridicule and bad mouth them. Sorry, cause those of us that know the people you disrespect, know you are wrong.

      • Avatar Marc Carter says:

        Again, after listening to all who commented, those who made the loudest noises, blurted baseless claims, brought up debunked myths and insulted council members, appear to be … as you say, “very nice people”, but I’ve heard that before too.

    • Avatar Louise Hanson says:

      I would suggest that having a university in a city, especially as of late in California, has not been known for producing civil individuals. Our state universities have been becoming more and more uncivil in that if you don’t subscribe to their (the students) way of thinking, you are not welcome, even to the point of rioting to keep you from speaking at their university. Though I have not seen this publicized regarding this sentiment being present at the universities in Chico or Eureka, that does not mean it is fomenting there.
      I see this lack of civility coming more from the lack of civility in the home and spilling from there into the community. Stop and think about if you’ve heard parents or adults speaking to their children, calling them names such as stupid, idiot, effers, etc., and using coarse language to and around these children. Then listen to these children talking this way to other children, as well as to adults, using the same language and name-calling. I believe that it is through this manner that the name-calling and lack of civility has become the norm in our culture and society. The question is: how do we reverse this norm?

      • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

        I lived in college towns for well over a decade, and I’ve lived in the Redding area for about 25 years. College kids get riled up when the Young Republicans—mainly to push buttons— invite a right-wing professional provocateur and NAMBLA advocate to speak on campus; or an avowed white nationalist (racist). Beyond that, the epidemic of rabid political correctness on campuses is shameful, and there are the beginnings of a backlash in the last year or two. So, you have a point.

        At one outstanding academic university, students are being told in their acceptance letters: “You are here to receive an education, and you will be exposed to a diversity of ideas, some of which you won’t agree with and may make you uncomfortable. We do not endorse ‘safe zones’ or ‘trigger warnings.’ Please accept an invitation to enroll elsewhere if this is contrary to your expectations.”

        That said, if you’re suggesting that college towns are less civil than our local NorCal cities and towns, I think you’re kidding yourself. The modal level of political discourse around here by comparison is aggressively dumb and angry, unless the benchmark is Ted Nugent. You don’t have to listen to much Fox News or right-wing rage radio to get a sense of where the local agitators are picking up their vibe. (“Liberals hate the Christian God and want to destroy America.”) In contrast, most of the flaming liberals in college towns are aping NPR’s academic, bemused, and sometimes conciliatory tone.

  7. Avatar conservative says:

    Deaths of despair are rising nationwide, but heavily concentrated in some areas. Instead of lashing out at local government and government employees, they should move to a place with a better quality of life.

    https://www.medpagetoday.com/blogs/themethodsman/71730?xid=NL_breakingnews_2018-03-13&eun=g1177120d0r

    • Avatar Anita L Brady says:

      WOW– did you agree with your advice when the Tea Party folks were displaying their contempt, in often profane terms, for the Obama Administration?

      It is amazing (and sad) to me how hypocritical the right has become…..

  8. Avatar AJ says:

    What Randall Smith said: AMEN!!! The last two sentences of his comments especially.
    My mother used to say, “Your freedom ends where my nose begins!” I think the same is true of words and ears. Maybe they use that kind of verbiage because they are too ignorant or uneducated or unread enough to know any “better words.” Notice I said BETTER, not bigger words.

  9. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    The descriptive type-name is “attention whore.” Ironically, I’m betting they’re enjoying the attention we’re giving them right now.

    I recall the period of time during the height of the Tea Party movement when the City Council got so fed up with the red-faced, spittle-flecked ranting and raving that they moved the public comments portion of the meetings to the end, prior to adjourning. I don’t think that was the right thing to do, but I get it.

    There are times when it would be a fine thing for the majority of the meeting attendees to erupt in an Animal House-style chorus of (((CoughBullshit!Cough))) in response to a jackasses braying from the lectern. Even better if a few council persons and the City Manager joined in.

    Owing to the nature of my work, I’ve attended City and County public meetings all over California. As a rule of thumb, the redder the county, the more red-@$$ed the public ranters (though I admit I haven’t participated in a public meeting in Berkeley). The only place I ever thought it might get violent was a public meeting in Siskiyou County. That one was a doozie—thoughts of being tarred and feathered or worse were rattling around in my head. I have rarely been as impressed as I was watching the Director of Public Works shut them up. He and I could not have been farther apart politically, but he did a masterful job of telling them exactly why they were a bunch of delusional, parasitic crybabies. He might as well have told them to take all their rage back to their chairs, sit on their thumbs, and rotate.

    • Avatar DBC says:

      This type comment is allowed, while I await moderation.

      • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

        1. Some sites frown upon commenters cowering behind veils of anonymity. This might be one such site.

        2. I’ve been hit with the “awaiting moderation” flag many times, sometimes for reasons that I don’t understand. It may happen with this post, since I’m going to use the word that likely got you flagged.

        3. There’s no guarantee that my comment up above lasts through the afternoon.

        4. Many people are more offended by variations of the word “rape” than they are of the words “bullshit” and “ass,” or the phrase “attention whore.” If this mystifies you, take my word for it.

  10. Avatar Dale says:

    The sad part is not one speaker or group took Mr. Tippen up on his offer. Shannon Hicks and I did and he answered every question and then some.. Nothing is more disappointing than angry rants with false information…

  11. Avatar conservative says:

    Instead of fruitlessly complaining about government spending, government employee salaries, government employee pensions, they should move to a place with a better quality of life. Get on the high speed train or get out. California is not going to change.

    Older, rural Republicans seem to be staying instead of selling because of their children. Moving out of California to one of the places where a lot of Calpers retirees go could also benefit their children. When I moved to Nevada and when I was scouting AZ, I ran into so many people from California. The clerk at the NV DMV told me about a lot of her workload coming from people moving from California.

    According to the State of Nevada, Carson City added 1,400 jobs since January 2017, Reno added 10,100 and metro Las Vegas added 22,300. Those growth rates are 4.8 percent, 4.5 percent and 2.3 percent.

    Many years ago, I read a study that the number one predictor of where a physician chose to practice is where his wife’s mother lives. If grandma moves to Summerlin, North Las Vegas benor Henderson and the rest of the family follow, all benefit.
    .

    • Avatar cheyenne says:

      Interesting, in the Arizona Republic was an article about a man who moved from California to Mesa and opened a MMJ outlet because his mother was a MMJ patient. Now he offers drive up window service.

  12. Avatar Richard Christoph says:

    Though we were out of town last week and missed the last meeting of the Council, I did view a significant portion of the nearly 5-hour meeting online and was absolutely appalled at the behavior of the three speakers (last name initials M. R. and S.) who consistently use their 3 minutes to vent their respective spleens and display their vast ignorance in the most loud, boorish, rude, and uncivil manner possible. The same Triumvirate (as well as others who were better behaved this meeting) made the January 17, 2017 C.C. meeting a sorry spectacle of unfounded and unwarranted attacks on the Council and City management and staff. Apparently, hearing the sound of their own voices and believing that they are speaking truth to power is justification enough for their vitriolic and in most cases meritless ranting. It is disgusting and embarrassing to witness verbal bullies who contribute nothing to the common good, demeaning and vilifying those who will not stoop to responding to those vile tirades in a public forum.

  13. Avatar George says:

    Sucks being human right. Ineptness over long periods can incense to the point where decorum is overwhelmed by frustration and anger.

    • Avatar Richard Christoph says:

      George,

      It is unlikely that any member of the City Council objects to being challenged by a citizen, and judging from the number of 3/2 decisions, the council members often disagree amongst themselves. But I ask you this: would those loud, angry, rude, and often poorly informed speakers ever allow themselves to be spoken to in that manner? Would YOU?

  14. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    A reminder of A News Cafe’s comment policy:

    “We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it… The definition of terms is left solely up to us.”

  15. Avatar Patricia Bay says:

    I absolutely agree, Bob. It seems many people have allowed themselves to forget their manners and do or say anything. It is fine for any of us to disagree and speak our piece, but do it with some decorum and class.

  16. Avatar Common Sense says:

    Vile behavior in general is Unacceptable!

    At the local level, this is but a Microcosm of the Macrocosm. When you elected a POTUS that has lowered the bar to the point of desecrating our democracy, Trampling on any norms of customary behavior and has sold out to a foreign hostile country as evidenced by his actions, it trickles down!

    It’s apparently, OK, to grab women’s private parts now. It’s OK to have affairs, to Lie on a Daily Basis…right?

    There is an old saying….lead by example! I am not saying this lack of respect just started in 2016…it’s probably been going on generation after generation. But when the guy running this Ship has shown through his actions that “Anything Goes”…..well……this is what you get….and those….and those were his supporters at the polls……the people standing there hurling insults….calling people stupid and idiots….they are Ok with what the POTUS is doing and saying…..if it works for him…. being VILE….ummp it must be OK…right?

    Perhaps those disrespectful folks were ALSO Narcissists …seeking attention? You know…birds of a feather…

    The Bar HAS been lowered….I am NOT OK with that….are you?

    http://time.com/5084420/donald-trump-lies-claims-fact-checks/

    • Avatar Tim says:

      Uncivility in public debate has indeed been happening for generations & generations — probably for as long as civilization itself.

      Trump admires Andrew Jackson, who once fought a duel with a political rival. Henry Clay, Sam Houston, & Alexander Hamilton all fought duels of their own. Most of those conflicts started out as political exchanges in newspapers…

      Even going back much further in time, Socrates was sentenced to death after riling political opponents into such a froth they convicted him of corrupting the youth with his teachings.

      The irony is that folks shouting out their loyalty’s idealogy aren’t convincing anyone of its merits but themselves.

  17. R.V. Scheide Jr. R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

    Welcome to Hannityville, where the gadflies you refer to are a gauge as to how far authoritarian rule will be pushed in Shasta County. Honestly, I don’t know what they’re complaining about. They’re totally getting their way. Secede? What for?

  18. Avatar Carla says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Most of the people who speak in this way have never actually done anything constructive in their lives. That’s why it’s easy for them to speak in overly simplistic and polarizing ways. The polite name for them that I have seen lately is LIVs, or low information voters.

  19. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Excellent comments Bob Blankenship. Name calling, insults and profanity shouldn’t be allowed in any meeting; big or small. Is there a way to interrupt a presentation at a council meeting that includes these? Maybe a bit of education is appropriate in an incident like this. If the members of the public are invited to air their views, there will always be brilliant, knowledgeable, ridiculous and ignorant views shared, but all people in attendance need to be treated with respect.

  20. Avatar Tazmanian Terrie says:

    Wow! I just watched the public comment again. Way to go my commenting peeps. I very much pray that you don’t think I am rude when I point out your very constructive and polite and gracious and most positive, errr opinions (sorry trying not to offend) no not opinions, Constructive Criticism, Dammit Jim, ok opinions. I am so much more enlightened and feel so much better about my community, Thank you so, so much for sharing terms that I can use in the future for my battles against those, you know, PEOPLE, I have to work with (even though they feed my cat and let me cry on their shoulder) but I digress! Uncivil discourse (is twitter making us meaner) when you (who? me, NO them) allow narcissists and birds (with feathers) to resort to name calling, insults and profanity, I agree: shouldn’t be allowed. Right on, Sister!

  21. Avatar cheyenne says:

    When I became an umpire at our first meeting the trainer said we had to be like ducks in the rain and let the crude remarks roll off our backs and concentrate on doing our job. When the remarks take over the conversation then the job suffers. When I became a union shop steward the trainer told us 90% of the complaints would come from 10% of the members.
    Being in charge is a thankless job and I respect those who do so instead of just complaining.

  22. Avatar Tracey says:

    “Thank you Bob. I couldn’t agree more. It is embarrassing.
    What kind of example are we setting for our children and grandchildren?”

    Perhaps they take their cues from the current inhabitant in the White House…..

  23. Avatar conservative says:

    Some tactics which are not only ineffective, but backfire:

    Newspaper comments
    Heckling congressmen at town meeting
    Heckling city council meeting during comments
    Attacking a candidate’s children, like NPR calling Palin’s children Wasailiabillies
    Chemtrails, State of Jefferson, anti-vaccine

    The comments section at public meetings and town halls will probably go away. Extremists can move to Facebook groups, pay for radio informercials or have their group website.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      I searched “NPR Wasailiabillies,” and the only reference that Google found was your comment. Since NPR News pretty much sets the gold standard for civility, I have to call BS unless you can provide a link. I doubt that NPR’s commentators would ever pull a personal attack on a politician’s kid (e.g, Rush Limbaugh holding up a picture of Chelsea Clinton when she was 12 years old on his short-lived TV show, and referring to her as the “family dog”).

      (It’s 100% fair to critique Trump’s kids, who daily engage in the political process on behalf of their father.)

      If you’re talking about a comedian on “Wait, Wait….Don’t Tell Me” making fun of the Palin clan, that’s a comedy show. Palin’s kids—especially her adult children—are fair game ever since she and her husband chose to make them public figures on their TV shows for $$.

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        I lived in Alaska for a number of years although that was prior to Palin’s time as governor. I’m still in touch with friends there, and the feeling about Palin is that she rants about having her family exposed by the press – until, that is, she, herself, trots them out.

      • Avatar conservative says:

        Attacking a candidate’s minor children is not an effective tactic. There is a high risk that people will find it offensive. There are less offensive, ways to express opposition to a candidate.

        NPR has an ombudsman to handle the complaints. It is probably a good idea to get feedback from listeners when a show violates good taste.

  24. Avatar Patrick McCarran says:

    Well Bob, not to be a contrarian, but i must disagree. Kinda the whole point of the United States is that if you want to be vile in a public meeting, you have that right. You may well suffer consequences such as the opprobrium of the community; but, it is your right. Myself, I think that they are doing a public service in outing themselves as reprobates to avoid.

  25. Avatar R. C. Irvine says:

    Thank you, Chief.

  26. Avatar Kelly Frost says:

    I was also at that meeting. And it was appalling. However, Bob, you failed to point out that at the same meeting some of those who were there to support the marijuana initiative were just as appalling. Calling those who opposed it backwards and stupid.