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Free Speech and Public Testimony at the Lane County Board Meeting

The recent fights over access to downtown Eugene's traditional public forums — the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza and the federal building plaza — are headed for the courts to debate the constitutionality of telling protesters that their free speech is limited to certain hours of the day. Tuesday marked a skirmish in the battle as activist Alley Valkyrie again tested the bounds of the exclusion order put on her by County Administrator Liane Richardson and County Counsel Stephen Dingle that is intended to keep her out of county buildings after she was charged (not convicted) of trespass for staying in the Free Speech Plaza after it was closed. 

Mayor Kitty Piercy has told Valkyrie and county staff that Valkyrie can come to city meetings, but in emails back and forth with Valkyrie, Dingle has maintained that she will be arrested if she enters the building without written permission and an escort. In an email written after Valkyrie attended a "name-clearing hearing" for former county attorney Marc Kardell, Dingle wrote:

I want to make sure that you understand that your presence at the Marc Kardell name clearing hearing did not result in your arrest for trespass because of a miscommunication.  Specifically, I want to make sure that you understand this is not a waiver of the previously imposed exclusion order. I have now had the opportunity to check with the City of Eugene regarding the assertions you made in your last email and  I learned nothing that would change the County’s position.  If you are present in the Public Service Building or Harris Hall for County functions without specific written permission from either the County Administrative Officer or County Counsel you will be subject to arrest.

Lane County does not have the resources to provide an escort. You may continue to enter the PSB or Harris Hall for city-related business as outlined in my earlier email.

In a return email, Valkyrie pointed out the irony of the county not having the resources for an escort while at the same time proposing giving Dingle a "huge" raise (the proposd 14 percent raise that has been declined for now would have taken Dingle's salary from $145,995 to $166,400).

On Jan. 29, Valkyrie attended a County Commission meeting to give public comment. 

Filmed by Joe Tyndall, edited by Dustin Ross

After the public comment period ends, commissioners can respond to the commenters. Commissioner Faye Stewart responded to a constiuent who had concerns over a flooded roadway and to Dexter resident Pam Driscoll who discussed mining at Parvin Butte, the firing of Kardell, and concerns about the county's participation in the Association of O&C Counties and its recent problematic use of "executive session." Commissioner Pat Farr commented briefly on the the AOCC issue.

Commissioner Pete Sorenson addressed Valkyrie's remarks and said that "Every government in our country has a responsibility to allow people who want to peaceably assemble and speak to do that" and that it was a protected right under the state and federal constitutions. He said it was important for elected officials to respect the right of people to speak out.

Commissioner Jay Bozievich told Valkyrie, "We did recognize who you were and allowed you to stay and speak because we don't want to limit your rights," adding, " That is not the intent of the order." Then he gave the example of the state Legislature and said, "There are time, place, manner, restrictions to some free speech to allow goverment functions to continue," and said Valkyrie can address the board when she wishes to in the future. 

To see the full remarks go here and click on the Jan. 29 HACSA meeting.