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Resolution before Laguna Beach council looks to restore civility at meetings

Laguna Beach City Hall is pictured.
The Laguna Beach City Council will consider a resolution Tuesday that would institute rules of decorum and civility for city officials, employees and the public at city meetings. Also up for discussion is a possible restriction on the sale of flavored tobacco products in the city.
(File Photo)

The Laguna Beach City Council will consider adopting a resolution drafted by Mayor Bob Whalen in an effort to restore civility to city meetings and other discussions.

“Laguna Beach is experiencing a lack of decorum and civility on several levels that can discourage the ... democratic process,” Whalen wrote in a staff report for Tuesday’s meeting. “When this happens, the mayor must take action to maintain an appropriate forum where the passionate exchange of views can occur freely and respectfully.”

Whalen previously called for civility in his State of the City address in May, saying recent council meetings had seen an “unprecedented” display of personal attacks intended “to embarrass and intimidate either an elected official or other members of the public who don’t share their point of view.”

If adopted, the rules and policies would apply to all members of the council, city boards, commissions, committees and staff and members of the public who speak at meetings or interact with city staff. The rules also would apply to any electronic or written communications.

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Proposed rules in the staff report state that city officials and staff must treat others respectfully, exercise self-control, focus on issues and give open-minded consideration to all viewpoints. Any shouting or physical actions that could be construed as threatening will not be tolerated, the report says.

All parties must “embrace respectful disagreement and dissent as democratic rights that are inherent components of an inclusive public process and tools for forging sound decisions and allow all members of the public to speak without intimidation or interruption,” according to the report.

The proposal states the public will not be allowed to engage in “disorderly or boisterous conduct,” such as applause, whistling or booing, or bring any signs, placards or banners if the “presiding officer” — the mayor or the chairperson of another city panel — determines they will disrupt a meeting.

Consequences for violating the rules could include removal from city premises, reprimand or censure.

Flavored tobacco products

In other business, the City Council will discuss possible changes to the city’s smoking ordinance to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products in response to growing usage among young people.

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Laguna Beach adopted an ordinance in 2017 to amend city code and ban smoking of cigarettes or electronic devices in all public areas within city limits.

Currently there is no state law that restricts the sale of flavored tobacco products, and no cities in Orange County have banned their sale, according to the Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing.

If the council decides to change the current smoking ordinance, it could affect as many as 20 businesses in Laguna Beach.

Tuesday’s meeting will begin at 5 p.m. at City Hall, 505 Forest Ave.

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