Coming in below the Radar : “SPEAKER CARDS”

Coming in below the Radar : “SPEAKER CARDS”

UPDATE : Amid public outcry, City Council decides to reject “Speaker Cards” in 10/23 session

10/21/12 – Will next Tuesday effectively mark the end of Free Speech in the City of Banning ?

At a time when the public is focused on the upcoming elections, an unexpected threat emerges :  disguised as a new “Procedure Manual” and deceptively placed on the “consent calendar”, “Speaker Cards” are here to shut you up – once and for all !



Sample "Speaker Card" (San Bernardino County) : Just because other agencies use them, does that make them ok ? The issue has never been challenged in court (click image to enlarge)

New rules about “Speaker Cards” are imbedded in an unsuspicious document called a “Procedure Manual”, which will apply to all Agencies, Authorities and Commissions of the City of Banning. The manual is part of the “consent calendar” contained in the 140 page agenda package for Tuesday, October 23, 2012 @ 5 PM (view agenda, pg. 81)

The “consent calendar” is meant for routine items that are considered non-controversial in nature and where no discussion is anticipated – certainly a nice try by City Manager Takata. For years, “Speaker Cards” have been highly controversial – for example see our 2011 article on the subject (view).



The “Procedure Manual” states, that “Speaker Cards” will be implemented each time the agenda specifically calls for it. This is NOT a random system where you merely take a number : the manual states that speakers will have to state their name and the subject matter they wish to speak on in order to be heard. However, someone shall not be denied to address the council because they failed to fill out the card.

So what does that mean for the public ? On most agenda items there aren’t many speakers that want to address the council. However, there are exceptions, for example when utility rates are raised or a sludge plant is proposed : in such cases dozens of speakers want to be heard but only the ones the Mayor picks will have the opportunity to voice their opinion.



The new rules do not provide for a random drawing, but for speakers to be selected by the Mayor. This opens the door to the following scenarios :

  • The Mayor may give preference to speakers who support the agenda item and who he is in agreement with
  • Corrupt Mayor Don Robinson will be choosing who speaks

    The Mayor may pick only those speakers he knows will not be too critical

  • The Mayor may only allow opposing speakers who he knows are not very articulate
  • The Mayor may give preference to speakers he is friends with (i.e. good old boys)
  • The Mayor may decide to “lose” a speaker card of a speaker he does not like
  • The Mayor may manipulate the sequence of speeches, therewith controlling their impact
  • The Mayor may give preference to those speakers who have given him campaign contributions

All of the above are possible scenarios under the newly proposed rules. How can we trust someone like Mayor Don Robinson, who is known for writing bad checks (see story), to fairly chose who speaks and who doesn’t ?




Barbara Hanna is like a broken clock that is right only twice a day. Here is one of those rare moments – back in  2009 :



Council member Bob Botts has long been a proponent of the cards :




Is the concept of “Speaker Cards” one which the Founding Fathers would have approved ?

Throughout history, nothing has been more threatening to governments than free speech. The Founding Fathers knew too well that people who identified themselves when they spoke up ended up being persecuted by the British.

That is why the First Amendment does not only protect Free Speech, it also protects anonymous speech. Such anonymous speech is not possible under the proposed Banning Speaker Card system, as the rules require you to identify yourself. So what would the Founding Fathers have done to someone who dared to propose “Speaker Cards” ? Chances are they would have hung him (or her) for treason.



For 99 years, Banning has managed to function just fine without stifling and intimidating “Speaker Cards”. What has changed that makes it impossible to continue without them ? Has the old system become just too inconvenient for our elected officials ?



“Speaker Cards” are all about controlling the public. The concept of a government working for the people is turned upside down . With “Speaker Cards”, the public gains nothing yet the government gains everything.

Don’t let the Don Robinson’s of this world push you around : oppose “Speaker Cards” ! Tuesday, October 23, 2012 may be your last chance to do so !


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