Noise and Civics

This coming Monday, March 2, the City of Spokane City Council is set to vote on ORD C35894, HEALTH CARE FACILITY NOISE ORDINANCE, described on the agenda as “An ordinance harmonizing the noise disturbance prohibitions in the context of health care providers and facilities with the noise disturbance provisions applicable generally throughout the city.” (Council Sponsor: CM Kinnear/CM Wilkerson).

This should happen during the Legislative Session of the City of Spokane City Council in the City Council Chambers (808 W Spokane Falls Blvd) some time after 6PM.

All citizens want to speak privately with their health care provider without being disturbed by intrusive and threatening protest. Most citizens agree on a general right of health care privacy. ORD C35894 aims to clarify and strengthen the legal protections for this privacy, in part because current ordinances and state law (Revised Code of Washington 9.02.100) are not fully enforced. ORD C35894 was written in response to current events [1], but it is directed at strengthening the legal tools needed to safeguard healthcare privacy.

In this country we pass laws (at the municipal level they’re called ordinances) to deal with such frictions and to avoid people resorting to violence. We endeavor to abide by those laws and we hope law officers will enforce these laws when people break them. When someone who breaks the law is “brought to justice,” we try to respect the results of what we hope will be the unbiased deliberations of our courts and judges. (I’ve often thought that part of the function of the legal system is stretch out these deliberations long enough so the passions of the aggrieved parties cool down enough that violent confrontation is off the table.)

The HEALTH CARE FACILITY NOISE ORDINANCE does two things: 1) It clarifies existing ordinances on noise interference with health care facilities, ordinances that depend on enforcement by local law enforcement officers and prosecution by the City.  2) It establishes a new private legal “right of action” under which an aggrieved citizen may bring a civil suit against a violator. The concept of a civil right of action is important because it requires neither an arrest nor a sympathetic city prosecutor in order to pursue justice under the ordinance.

What can we do as concerned citizens? First, recognize that the self-righteous folk shouting through megaphones are already accosting members of the City Council with their views. With that in mind, it behooves us to let our City Council members know how we feel about the importance of this new ordinance, its enforcement, and the new “right of action” that does not require police intervention to serve as a deterrent.

Do you know who your council members are and how to contact them? Visit:  The boundaries of the districts, the council members, and their emails are right there to be seen and clicked on. Email a note of your support for this ordinance to your council members. This is local government. Our council members (or at least their legislative assistant) actually look at these emails.

Attend the March 2 City Council Meeting Legislative Session (details on time and place in the first paragraph above). It’s your local government in action. See how it works. You won’t be alone. Here’s a link to a Facebook event page that further describes the meeting.

Access more information on the March 2 City Council Session at:   Don’t be daunted by the lengthy pdf. ORD C35894 appears on page 7. If you click on “ORD C35894” it will take you to the text of the proposed Ordinance way down the pdf in the supplementary materials. This is how actual meetings and government happen. Let’s pay attention.

Participate in your democracy–or plan to lose it.

Keep to the high ground,

[1] The current provocation: Pastor Ken Peters of Covenant Church and his followers pose as “The Church at Planned Parenthood” outside of the Planned Parenthood Spokane Health Center on Indiana east of Ruby. Thinly cloaked as a “Christian” Church, this group has deep ties with local far right politicians (Matt Shea, Mike Fagan, and Caleb Collier) and draws occasional speakers from afar. They claim these raucous protests (to which Pastor Peters reassures us that his followers often come armed–Did Jesus wear a sword?) are protected religious services, NOT protests. Visit that denial at the American Redoubt article on the topic.