No, City Council is not taking away citizens’ free speech rights


Several “opinion column letters” have recently been written by Steve Brown telling the citizens that the mayor is attempting to take away a citizen’s right to “free speech.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

When I think of the former Mayor Steve Brown, as it relates to these “opinion letters,” I am reminded of the movie with Michael Douglas, “An American President.”

The scene where Michael J. Fox says, “Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.”

Michael Douglas playing the part of the President Andrew Shepherd replies: “Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, and who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.”

Mr. Brown, you’re either telling the citizens to drink the sand, being disingenuous, or you simply don’t understand the purpose of a “City Council Meeting.” I’m not sure which is worse.

Let us be clear and honest with the public. So that everyone understands, a “City Council Meeting” is for the single purpose of conducting the “business of the city” and is considered a “limited public forum.”  Legally there are only a few provisions when a citizen has an absolute right to be heard by mayor and council during a council meeting.

Some more specific ones are as follows: a variance or zoning hearing, a bond hearing, and a budget hearing.

The “City Council Meeting” is not generally used as a platform for citizens to come in and voice their opinions. However, this mayor and council have opened up the opportunity for citizens to address the mayor and council for three minutes and be heard. Understand there is nothing in the law that requires them to do so.

We live in a “Representative Republic” where our representatives are democratically elected to speak on our behalf. Mr. Brown’s narrative is in the form of an outright democracy. An example of an outright democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for dinner. 

In a “Representative Republic,” we-the-people elect officials to represent us and speak on our behalf. If a citizen wants to place an item on the agenda, he or she can go to the mayor or any council member to request an item be added to the agenda. It only takes one representative out of five to add the item to the agenda. If none of the five representatives see fit to add the item to the agenda, one would have to question the merit of the request.

To affirm, no one is taking free speech away from any citizen. Any citizen can open a website. Citizens have a right to present articles to the paper. Citizens still have the right to write letters, send emails, or peacefully protest. Our government is not inhibiting any liberties of free speech and to suggest otherwise is simply again, disingenuous.

A “City Council Meeting” is to simply conduct the business of the city.

Dar Thompson

Peachtree City, Ga.


  1. It is hyperbole to say that the mayor is taking away our free speech rights, but it is also correct that she is not enhancing our ability to speak and be heard on the issues.

    I disagree that a city council meeting is not currently and historically a place for citizens to address their elected officials, in PTC or anywhere else in the US, whether enshrined in law or not. In PTC, it is in the law, there’s no valid reason given to change it, and thus the reaction against its loss.

    You have to admit that there’s more than a little irony in removing a citizen’s right to put an agenda item to speak on an issue at a Council meeting, yet they are willing to spend $64,000 of our money to harvest social media to learn what a few who are active there are saying.

    There are families who gather at the dinner table with each member sitting head down and eyes glued on their phone. To some, that’s progress and modern communication. Our Mayor and Council strike me as being in that camp.