Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Noise Bill Will STRENGTHEN Free Speech

As a journalist and former card-carrying member of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (Local 39), I’m rabidly protective of free speech rights and complete transparency in our government processes.

That’s why I back a noise bill that actually enhances our democratic process. Here’s how:

The current law contains this provision, which the pending bill will NOT change:

DCMR § 20-2704.8 “The unamplified voice shall be exempt at all times.”

Unamplified voices are and would remain exempt from the District’s noise ordinance. When large numbers of people are energized about an issue, they should dominate the public debate--not one person with a big amplifier.

What does this mean? It means 100, 1,000, or 100,000 people marching in D.C. will have NO (zero, nada, nothing) restrictions on how loud their unamplified voices can be. And that’s the way it should be.

As a matter of fact, D.C.’s current law violates the right to free speech for those without—or with smaller—amplifiers.

Let’s let the people prevail--not special interest groups who, when lacking real voices, resort to artificial bullying to get their way.

4 Comments:

Anonymous speak and be heard said...

Have you ever been to a march with 1,000 people?

You are correct: it gets loud. Just the white noise chatter of the crowd is enough to get noticed by passersby. But any movement in the crowd, any semblance of purpose, is impossible--impossible--to coordinate without a way to rise above (well above) the chatter. Large groups turn into mobs without leaders; leaders can't be heard without amplification.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Klav said...

Agreed. But I think most reasonable people could accept the amplification associated with infrequent, 1000-person events.

With this bill, non-commercial public speech measured above 70 decibels, or 10 decibels greater than ambient noise, would only constitute a noise disturbance if it were also found to be excessive under the “reasonable person” standard as defined by D.C. law.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous speak and be heard said...

Also agreed, that “reasonable people could accept the amplificiation associated with infrequent, 1000-person events.”
But the devil is in the details— a noise disturbance is already defined by the DC Code as “any sound which is loud and raucous or loud and unseemly and unreasonably disturbs the peace and quiet of a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities in the vicinity thereof” (http://www.adlerbooks.com/Noiseregs.pdf). The decibel thresholds that already exist are already subject to a “reasonable person” standard.

A “reasonable” sound inspector from the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs who testified at the Council’s public hearing on this bill last July (9th) stated very clearly that, whenever he is called to a scene, he shuts down the noise in question whenever the decibels register over the “threshold”—period. A “reasonable person” knows better than to invite a lawsuit from any offended party by using his own discretion. The sound inspector said it himself. I don’t remember his name, and I can’t find the transcript online, but you were there, and I was there, and I will get the quotes.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Klav said...

speak and be heard:

D.C.'s bill certainly could do more to protect residents' quality of life.

As it's written, it would make D.C. still the most permissive city in the nation allowing bullhorn-generated noise. Other major metropolitan areas have noise laws which we easily could emulate.

A person's right to speak does not mean one should be forced to listen--especially inside one's home.

9:05 AM  

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