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North Adams Committee Will Not Support Ban On Signs

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
08:50PM / Wednesday, January 16, 2013
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The committee moved the rules of order as is, which does not include the new rule.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The General Government Committee will not recommend banning signs in the City Council Chambers.

City Council President Michael Bloom crafted an additional rule for the council's rules of order that would restrict "any form of messaging, whether lettered or graphic, on a sign, electronic device or printed article of personal clothing a City Council meeting."

The new rule has been lingering on the committee level since November while the committee waited for an opinion from the city solicitor.

On Monday, the solicitor issued an opinion saying the rule had gone too far but offered a "narrower rule" that prohibited signage.

"The solicitor basically said that is going beyond what the constitution would allow," Committee Chairman Keith Bona said on Wednesday.

But the committee felt that the narrowwe rule wouldn't solve the problem at all. The city had hoped to crack down on disruptive behavior from members of the public.

"It's not going to solve the problem. It is just another rule and we're back here in a month thinking of another," Bona said, adding that anything that can be written on a sign could be printed on a T-shirt and fall within the rules. "They'll just find other methods."

Committee member Marie Harpin agreed and motioned to move the rules of order at they currently stand, which do not include the rule but still puts the power into the City Council president's hands to rule residents out of order.

A group of residents who have been adamantly against the proposal and the driving force behind crafting it argued against it saying that it was unconstitutional. Resident Robert Cardimino said that if the council does implement the ban, he would fight it in court and Mark Trottier said he it was "too broad" to hold up in court.

But while the residents cited court cases and said they believed it was unconstitutional, Bona said that isn't his concern at this point.

"I'm not looking at 'is it legal or illegal?' I am looking at 'is it functional,'" Bona said, saying there can be arguments made for either side and if it progressed that would be to higher courts to decide.

Beyond that, residents wanted the rules of order to be even less restrictive than they are now. Cardimino said he wants to be recognized during the meeting while councilors debated amongst themselves and not just restricted to the open microphone portion of the meeting. He claimed the citizens were not being represented by their elected officials and should have the opportunity to weigh-in themselves.

"In order to do that Mr. Cardimino you need to be elected by the people in this community," Harpin said.

Cardimino lost a bid for city council in the last election.

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