The San Marcos City Council got off to a bad start during its first in-person meeting in over a year on Tuesday, May 11, and what did they do? They made the first move to limit free speech in the Valley of Discovery.
Mayor Rebecca Jones along with City Council members Randy Watson, Sharon Jenkins, and Ed Musgrove voted to limit the rights of residents to protest lawfully in residential neighborhoods. Only Council member Maria Nunez opposed this measure that not only is ill-advised, but unconstitutional.
In opposing this affront to free speech and the principles laid forth by our founding fathers, Nunez made an impassioned plea about the importance of free speech and free assembly, especially when it come to minority residents in the city.
The ill-considered assault on our constitutional rights came in the form of Proposed Ordinance No. 2021-1496.
The proposed ordinance states that the City “finds that the preservation and protection of the right to privacy in a residential dwelling unit and the enjoyment of tranquility, well-being, and sense of security in the residential dwelling unit, are in the public interest and are uniquely and critically important to the public health, safety, and welfare.”
Such a motive is certainly worthy. However, this proposed ordinance fails because it is overly broad, vague and violates the rights of free speech and assembly guaranteed under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
The ordinance declares that the City will only establish “time, place and manner” restrictions by this ordinance.
Although the ordinance appears content neutral and places a 300’ “buffer zone”, it is not narrowly tailored because it prohibits picketing entirely rather than regulating it to minimize intrusiveness.
Moreover, there is no effort to minimize intrusiveness by time restrictions.
Finally, the scope of the ordinance gives city officials too much discretion in making enforcement decisions and, as such, is overly broad.
The ordinance will likely be tested in Court and be deemed unconstitutional, even under the constitutional test established in Frisby v. Schultz (1988) 487 U.S. 474.
It is wrong and should be opposed vocally by all city residents before being thrown out by the courts in litigation that will cost city taxpayers dollars.
— This editorial was prepared by Alan Geraci, a long-time San Marcos resident and attorney.