Reporting Dave Bryan
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Emotions reached a boiling point at Tuesday’s L.A. City Council meeting after a member of the public made a Nazi salute, prompting one councilmember to say that he wanted to “clock him.”
Angry outbursts, crude and obscene language, and outrageous comments have become so common during the public comment segment of the meetings, that one councilmember said that it is turning into a circus.
Some councilmembers say that what is supposed to be an exercise in free speech has spun dangerously out of control.
“The city is going to hell in a hand basket and you’re going to sit up there and dictate,” said political gadfly Michael Carreon at Tuesday’s meeting.
He is one of the regulars in the city council audience. He patiently waits for his turn to speak during the public comment segments and speak he does – very direct, very opinionated and very sure of himself.
But when he was told to direct his remarks to the chair and not attack individual councilmembers, Carreon lost his cool.
“Now I’m all confused on where I’ve got to go; I’m upset. So I guess I’ll just salute you, Heil Hitler,” Carreon said as he gestured the Nazi salute.
Carreon may have been trying to make a point. But when Councilmember Paul Koretz saw the Nazi salute and heard the sieg heil, he lost it.
“I’m very temped to go over there and clock him,” Koretz said at the meeting.
Later he explained his frustration to us.
“I’ve lost a number of relatives in the Holocaust, as did, I’m sure, thousands of my constituents,” he said.
Koretz, who is hardly known as a temperamental firebrand, later said that he was so offended by Carreon’s tactics, that he was tempted to disrupt the meeting and go out there and sock him.
“Well it’s kind of funny that it was me, because I’m generally known as probably the most mild-mannered person on the council,” Koretz said.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl denounced Carreon’s use of the term sieg heil.
“That is not a light term and it is not a funny term. It is an outrageous and an immoral term that should never be used in the United States government,” Rosendahl said.
But should limits be put in place for the public comment segments?
“I think there should be limits. Foul speech, offensive speech. I would like a little more direction from our city attorney’s office, so that they could help us get through this,” said Councilman Tom LaBonge.
But regulating the public comment time at city council might not be easy. The council, like all legislative bodies, must respect the right of a free people to exercise their right of free speech.
But with things spinning out of control, some councilmembers believe something must be done to rein it in.