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Supervisors kill an anti-free speech ordinance 

By the end of the day, San Luis Obispo County Administrator Jim Grant had to fall on the grenade that was the proposed ordinance to regulate, permit, and potentially fine public gatherings and free speech.

- WINN FOR THE KILL :  Mike Winn, a director with the Nipomo Community Services District, was one of a number of people who urged county officials to refrain from entertaining new county rules that could restrict free speech and public gatherings. -  - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • WINN FOR THE KILL : Mike Winn, a director with the Nipomo Community Services District, was one of a number of people who urged county officials to refrain from entertaining new county rules that could restrict free speech and public gatherings.

“This was my idea to bring this forward, and I take full responsibility for it,” Grant told an irritated crowd that turned out in force for the July 24 Board of Supervisors meeting.

The item before county supervisors was merely to schedule a public hearing during which they would introduce the ordinance. But, if enacted, the amended ordinance would have given the General Services Agency director authority to oversee the use of county facilities and vacant lands for gatherings, including the ability to require permits and impose misdemeanor charges on violators.

But those violators could be considered anyone from members of a family reunion to protesters exercising their First Amendment rights.

“I was in a communist prison; freedom of speech is the most beautiful thing about America,” said Kosta Radisavljevic, one of 24 people who spoke against the proposal. “Nothing better; nothing more beautiful. Don’t touch it, for God’s sake.”

Even former assemblywoman and congresswoman Andrea Seastrand attended to voice her disapproval.

“I would just say drop it,” Seastrand told county supervisors.

After more than an hour of public comment—all of it in opposition to the proposed ordinance language—Grant explained that the issue stemmed from his request to curb “public safety” hazards brought on by the Occupy SLO encampment in front of the SLO County Courthouse late last year. Grant suggested that county supervisors pull the item and send it back for further review and input from various community advisory groups; county supervisors agreed unanimously, with a stipulation that the ordinance will get a pass from the county Parks and Recreation Commission and that any future version would include provisions to protect free speech.

“I think if ever there was a term that would be appropriate, it’s that the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” Supervisor Frank Mecham said.

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