Letter: Protect The First Amendment

Free speech is not something that needs to get fixed. The First Amendment exists precisely to protect all forms of expression from government suppression. Freedom of inquiry and the liberty of expression are the hallmarks of a democratic society. Government censorship isnever the way to reply to a dissatisfied populace. Select members of Loxahatchee Groves Town Council who think so, do so at their peril, and ought to think again.

These select members, profiling as an authoritarian system, generally tend to take a dim view of public comment. Public comment prior to the “swear in” ceremony of the recent contested election was denied. For select members of the town council to deny the public the right to speak simply because they can seems to indicate that the mindset of our council is not of the people and for the people.

Select council members have a history of issuing payback for unpopular speech. In the “abundance of caution” council meeting of Jan. 6, a resident offered, “I am mortified that I live in a town where we are talking about taking away free speech.”

At the March 17 council meeting, a resident shared, “I take offense at your blatant and sweeping disregard for the citizen’s voices in this town. Who would be so cavalier as to think your opinion, your voices, are more important than mine or anyone else who lives here. This is a public office. Your sole duty is to serve the public, not yourselves, not your personal interests.”

On April 7, a member of the Loxahatchee Groves Canvassing Board took exception to the summary of statements made in my public comments that were recorded in the minutes of the March 17 canvassing board meeting. The councilman attempted to add words to the record that were not spoken by me. This unsuccessful “scrubbing” was to censor an act of free speech that was made in a public venue.

Then we witnessed a councilman motion to deny Big Dog Ranch without Big Dog having its opportunity to be heard in a required quasi-judicial hearing. The councilman put on quite the show. The end result of the council’s discussion was that the councilman recused himself. What was that all about?

These select councilmen are turning our town government into a kindergarten for geriatrics, a homeowners’ association on steroids as it were.

In conclusion, may I share with my neighbors of Loxahatchee Groves, there was never a place or a time when “Right and Proper Government” is needed more.

Keith Harris, Loxahatchee Groves