Wednesday, May 11, 2005
On this day:

Freedom of Speech, Just Watch What You Say

San Francisco Gate: Supervisors prohibit prejudiced remarks -- Resolution follows comments about pregnant worker by Suzanne Herel
Speakers at San Francisco public meetings can be angry, passionate, even disagreeable in their remarks -- but they can't utter discriminatory comments, the Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday. The 11-member board unanimously approved a resolution sponsored by President Aaron Peskin that stemmed from an April 4 Building Inspection Commission hearing in which some members of an influential builders group said a female city employee was not fit to run a department because she is pregnant. The employee, Amy Lee, has since been appointed acting director of the Department of Building Inspection. "The intent of this resolution is to make a clear statement that discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, religion, color, ancestry, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, weight, height or place of birth will not be tolerated in San Francisco city government," said Peskin, who himself has endured unkind comments about his short stature. One such comment has been lobbed by no other than Joe O'Donoghue, the head of the Residential Builders Association, who is mentioned by name along with his group in Peskin's resolution. "It's the angry dwarf, that's all this is," O'Donoghue said, using one of his derogatory monikers for Peskin. He added that he had another name for the supervisors' president: Heinrich Peskin -- as in Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler's top aide. "Essentially, this is a smear campaign," O'Donoghue said. "What a waste of government time to engage in such extraordinary action regarding free speech." Peskin, however, emphasized that his resolution was not an attempt to attack free speech, of which, he pointed out, San Francisco has traditionally been a champion. "We must make every possible effort to maintain basic decorum and integrity in our public forum," he said. "Failure to do so has the same chilling effect as stifling free speech."