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Norco rejects plan to require permits for political activity

By in Press Enterprise on December 21, 2017

By Ryan Hagen

An attempt to limit protests and signature-gathering that could interfere with other activities on city property in Norco was shot down Wednesday, Dec. 20, by the entire City Council.

A proposed ordinance would have required anyone planning to engage in political activities at parks or other city-owned land or facilities to apply for a permit.

“The question is not as to whether or not (the political activity) can occur, but whether or not the location is appropriate,” City Attorney John Harper said before the vote. “It gives the city the authority to designate an alternate location if the location that’s proposed is a problem for one of two reasons: safety or disruption of use in that particular area.”

The issue came up when city staff realized they had no authority to stop where residents gathered signatures to place a measure on the November 2018 ballot that would impose term limits on the City Council, Harper said. But, to address “the elephant in the room,” he said, any change would not go into effect until after that signature-gathering was completed.

And the content of the speech could not be considered in deciding whether to issue a permit, according to the ordinance.

Michael Thompson, a member of the group gathering those signatures, was just one of the residents who spoke in opposition to the proposal.

It would be one thing if the city had a problem with unruly protests, but there hasn’t been any indication that a restriction is necessary, resident Betsy Roberts told the City Council.

“Every day we’re being told, whether it’s the state or the federal government, more and more of what we can’t do,” said Roberts, a 35-year resident of the city. “We work really hard for the freedoms we have. To have these additional restrictions as a matter of law just really […]    

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