Much attention is rightly being given, in our current crisis, to damage to the economy and how interrupted livelihoods might be restored or mitigated. What has gotten almost no attention, and needs it, is damage to our constitutional rights, and a much-needed conversation on how to ensure their restoration when medically possible. The right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances slipped away in an instant with no apparent notice. I understand the overriding need to prohibit all gatherings at this time, but, knowing that for virtually every political and social advance in our nation's history the exercise of this right has been central to its struggle for success, I watch in vain for assertions of its value and of the need to plan for its restoration.
We may, indeed, face an ambiguous period during which the danger of the currently rampaging virus will fade, but not disappear. Where is the balance point between epidemiological risk and the risk of losing our liberty? Where is the line between needed precaution and convenient pretext? We need to be having these conversations!
A corollary loss has been our ability to participate in the decisions of local governments and state bodies, as guaranteed by the Brown Act and the Bagley Keene Act, now that physical attendance at, and participation in, their meetings is impossible. Some bodies, such as our SLO County Board of Supervisors, are making attempts, however jury-rigged and untested, to provide some semblance of customary public process, for which I am grateful. Others, such as the CSU Board of Trustees, with a meeting next Tuesday, have yet to provide any way for the public to participate—a lack that could become a major concern if, as indicated by Peter Johnson's story "Town-gown 2035" (March 19), the Cal Poly Administration is dead set on ramming through, at the CSU Board's subsequent May meeting, a Master Plan that will straitjacket the campus's future in a pre-crisis mold at a time when every assumption about the future of the system needs to be rethought.
What is the plan for full recovery of the Brown Act and the Bagley Keene Act? What is the plan for full recovery of the right of the people to peaceably assemble? There will be no plan unless the people assert the value of these rights! Let the conversation begin!