Escondido’s Mayor Abed Says No to Applause

At the beginning of the oral communication portion of the Escondido City Council’s meeting on December 14, mayor Sam Abed issued the warning: “I want to make it very clear, that applause, standing, cheering, and whistling is not allowed at this council chamber. If this will continue, I will postpone the oral communication until after the meeting. If somebody violates these rules, they will be respectfully asked to leave the council chamber.”

Tooney Pearce, a 12-year Escondido resident, said that during the past couple of meetings she’s attended, it’s been the mayor’s ruling not to allow clapping, so that no favoritism is shown.

“By not allowing me the right to applaud, you are denying me my First Amendment rights,” said Pearce as she addressed the council.

According to Pearce, the town of Peaksville, New York, was the first city in the United States to not allow clapping by resolution — she also notes that what was specifically banned was clapping while people were speaking; however, that resolution remains controversial because it infringes on the civil rights of others to be heard, said Pearce.

“I do not believe you have a resolution against clapping. If I feel that I need to show favoritism or appreciation for someone that has been speaking, I will clap. As a citizen and a patriot and because I am allowed to by the Constitution,” said Pearce.

Her comments were received by loud applause from those at the city council meeting. Mayor Abed did not respond to Pearce's comments and elected not to kick anyone out of the city council meeting for cheering.

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When we, the people, tend to elect control freaks to represent us, our preferences are clear, and common courtesy is replaced by obedience to arbitrary rules regardless of context. Failure to exercise common courtesy, such as interrupting a person exercising free speech such that said exercise is prevented, invites a tendency toward control. Finding the sweet spot known as intellectual intercourse is thus frustrated, opening the door for the exchange of rudeness, which not only goes nowhere, it disintegrates discourse.

There's always a group of supporters in the audience who seem to think that the speaker's words will carry more weight and will be more likely to be heeded if they add some shouts, whoops, and loud claps. And in a like manner, the same mentality brings hoots and derision, loudly expressed, if they disagree. It does nothing for a council meeting, or a school board meeting, or a meeting of a college/university trustee meeting when the same thing occurs. Yet this sort of thing not only persists, but is getting worse. Abed, though, can be counted on to come down on the wrong side of most issues, and this one is no exception. Applause is a near-universal way of indicating approval, and its absence displays the opposite. What's his problem with applause? I'd trade it for shouts, catcalls and even-more-raucous whistling any day.

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