Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

March 19, 2013

Muzzled

We’re guessing that the Allegany County commissioners are tired of hearing the animal control and shelter complaints raised by Cumberland resident Kenneth Wilmot. But that is hardly a reason to ban Wilmot from bringing up the topics at commissioner meetings.

Nonetheless, last week Commission President Michael McKay stopped Wilmot from speaking. He reminded Wilmot of a Sept. 11 letter sent to him by County Administrator David Eberly about Wilmot’s repeated comments animal control complaints. “Moving forward, I’ve been directed to communicate to you that the county will no longer afford to you the opportunity to speak at the county commissioners public business meetings on matters related to animal control issues,” the letter read.

Barring a constituent from bringing up certain topics — even if the topics have been discussed repeatedly — is a dangerous precedent to set. What other topics might Wilmot — or others — be blocked from discussing at county meetings?

Wilmot told the commissioners last Thursday that the ban violated his First Amendment rights. We believe he is right.

Since the time of town hall meetings in the infancy of our nation, people have disagreed with public policy or taken elected leaders to task. When you are elected to public office, it comes with the territory. Criticism and objection are part and parcel of being elected to a public office.

We urge the county commissioners to reverse course. Wilmot, nor anyone else, should never be barred from speaking about something simply because “this has all been discussed before.”

Impose a time limit for speaking if you must, commissioners. But don’t try to muzzle your constituents.

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