Your story, “Candidates challenge mayor in Morro Bay” (Aug. 25) appeared to indicate that Betty Winholtz did something wrong when she announced her candidacy for mayor during public comment at a City Council meeting. The story quoted City Attorney Joe Pannone as saying that such announcements “weren’t allowed during city meetings.”
Pannone was wrong, and the city soon heard what residents thought about this attempt to deny their First Amendment rights. To many of us, this action looked suspiciously like an attempt to give a political advantage to the incumbent mayor. Public pressure soon forced the city to back down.
In Morro Bay, people have always used the public comment forum to announce their candidacies for public office. Incumbents use the public forum and our tax money to tell us how great everything is and what a wonderful job they’re doing. For example, the city of Morro Bay regularly sends out slick brochures and postcards telling us (falsely) that the Water Reclamation Facility project is going well. In fact, that project is a costly disaster. To deny the incumbents’ political challengers use of the public forum at council meetings would be completely unethical and would violate their constitutional rights.