City Council considers limiting public comment

PHOTO BY ALEX DOMINGUEZ   Armando Herman frequently curses and uses derogatory language during public comment periods at Downey city council meetings.

PHOTO BY ALEX DOMINGUEZ

Armando Herman frequently curses and uses derogatory language during public comment periods at Downey city council meetings.

DOWNEY – Downey council members, frustrated with racist and offensive language that has become a regular occurrence at their meetings, are considering a proposal that would restrict the number of times members of the public could speak at City Council meetings.

The proposed change is largely in response to Armando Herman, an outspoken critic who uses the public comment periods at meetings to rant about government policies.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Herman’s outbursts included use of the N-word and several obscenities.

“F--- you, Rick Rodriguez,” Herman directed to the mayor.

Mayor Rodriguez said changing how public comment is received would help “streamline” meetings, making them more efficient.

One proposal the council is considering would create two public comment periods: one for items being considered by the City Council at that specific meeting, and another for non-agenda topics.

“The public comment period for agenda items…would be placed near the beginning of the City Council agenda after the public hearings,” city attorney Yvette Abich Garcia wrote in a report to council members.

Non-agenda public comment would be taken at the tail end of the meeting. The maximum time period for each speaker would remain the same at five minutes.

To make meetings more efficient, Councilman Alex Saab recommended reducing the number of public presentations before each meeting (there were seven Tuesday) or hosting the presentations at an earlier time.

Council members declined to make a decision Tuesday and are expected to revisit the matter at a future meeting.

Herman’s hateful language has drawn scorn from the City Council in the past; then-mayor Fernando Vasquez booted Herman from a meeting in 2017, but he and the city reached a $5,000 settlement after Herman threatened to sue for violation of his First Amendment right to free speech.

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