Did a New Rochelle Council Member Censure a Public Radio Station Regarding First Amendment Free Speech?

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Did a New Rochelle Council Member Censure a Public Radio Station Regarding First Amendment Free Speech?

July 03, 2010 - 06:21

New Rochelle's own Norman Rockwell paints a telling image.

"When those in power seek to intimidate opponents, it is essential that the rest of us stand up and shout no, you can’t do this. Speaking truth to power is essential if we are to preserve our liberties."(Ed Koch in an article from the World Tribune)

If you had the opportunity to hear the latest interview with Bob Marrone and New Rochelle Councilwoman Marianne Sussman, would it surprise you to hear a city official blame, chastise, or otherwise condemn the affable host for allowing people to call into the show and express their opinion? From my own experience, Bob has ALWAYS afforded the utmost in courtesy, openness and freedom towards the councilwoman in allowing her views to be shared with the public. A completely open platform for her own agenda.

The discussion ramped up as a result of New Rochelle's latest, failed, attempt to hand over the Armory to a private developer. The plan ultimately collapsed amid tremendous outcry from veterans groups and citizens alike. In the kindest of ways, Mr. Marrone attempted to explain that views shared by callers are not his own, and if he himself said anything untowardly, he would accept the due criticism, but with WVOX being the voice of the people (vox populi), it would be disingenuous, and counter to the purpose of public forum to only air content approved by the city council. She didn't want to hear it. She even went on to chastise the station for allowing the content and guests of a certain call-in show the previous day. (I got the impression it was the Mike Scully show, but I may be wrong). Amazing, in my opinion, she was actually blaming Bob, and by extension, WVOX for all the trouble city council and the mayor is facing lately. Aside from the assault on the First Amendment rights of the people who care enough to call with their concerns, it was very troubling to hear such a personal overtone to the conversation. We hear the same vitriol from another council member whenever he can't support his own argument. On more than one occasion, when backed into a corner he can't get out of, he sinks to pejorative terms in a feeble attempt to re-direct the issue and somehow discredit those who would dare question him. Fortunately, it only reinforces those who challenge him.

Free speech is a hallmark of WVOX and Mr. Marrone. Always open to different viewpoints, careful not to comment without proper research, committed to his own ideals while respecting those who disagree. A truly open forum. That IS what public debate is all about, what the First Amendment bestows and entrusts to us all.

To debate all voices, openly and without filter, to question those in power, and to hear from those less served, will ultimately grant us the qualities reserved for us by our founding fathers.

In a shallow attempt to redirect and belittle my commentary, I've been accused of promoting "hateful" quotations. In the interest of government control, I'll ask if anyone approves of the following:

"If once [the people] become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions." -- Thomas Jefferson

"A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both." -- James Madison

"The ultimate test of a belief in free speech should be whether it can be extended to people you hate." -- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." -- Elie Wiesel

"The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people." -- Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis

Quod in te est, prome