The Lisbon Council meeting of July 5 was the first held under the new meeting rules, which I see as a gag order, issued at last month's council meeting
It was my feeling that a heavy cloud of control hung over the room as a uniformed, armed police officer, positioned not 6 feet from the podium, gazed intimidatingly around the room, almost daring anyone to take the floor.
As I sat there, stunned by the Third World atmosphere in the room, I had an epiphany. For the first time in my life I truly understood why our forefathers felt so strongly about freedom of speech. It is the right that supports the rest of the rights.
The law of this land allows hate-mongering radicals to protest at the funerals of its fallen war heroes, but the Lisbon Council feels it's necessary to silence the town's taxpayers.
If there was ever a question about how Lisbon's councilors view "freedom of speech," it was answered that night. The entire public participation section of the meeting lasted about 90 seconds.
While the council may have been following the letter of the law, they were not following the spirit of the law.
I offer councilors congratulations on their victory. They won't have anyone looking over their shoulders questioning their judgment. They won't have anyone at their meetings.
Shame on the members of the Lisbon Council for silencing the public, and shame on the public for letting them do it.
Fred Stacey, Lisbon Falls
Editor's note: According to Town Manager Steve Eldridge, the City Council reworked its meeting rules to confine audience participation to the start of the meeting in an attempt to streamline business meetings. According to the Maine Municipal Association, there is no provision in state law that guarantees public participation in municipal business meetings, but participation can be extended as a courtesy if the municipality wishes.