Johnson stands for free speech

To the editor:

I am responding to the Oct. 20 letter from Michael Hernon. In his letter, Hernon stated that Michael Johnson was against citizens speaking at council meetings. This is simply not true.

For those of you who do not remember, Hernon is a former city councilman. During his time on council, citizens were not allowed to speak at every council meeting. Citizens could only speak at the regular council meeting, not sunshine meetings.

What changed to allow the citizens to speak at all council meetings? The election of Johnson as 2nd Ward councilman is what changed to allow citizens to speak at all council meetings. Johnson believed that citizens should have the right to speak at every council meeting. Johnson converted his belief in free speech to action and cast the deciding vote in a 4-3 vote that allowed the citizens to speak at every meeting.

To characterize Johnson as being against free speech is inaccurate, outright wrong and ignores the history as to why citizens are allowed to speak at every council meeting. Johnson did not think he was elected just to exercise good judgment ­– he wanted to listen to the issues and suggestions of the citizens of the city of Steubenville.

In the past two years, allowing individuals to speak during the public forum portion of the council meetings without signing up has come to a vote twice. Each time it passed affirmatively, once by a 4-3 vote, the next time unanimously. On both occasions, the affirmative vote by council was voted on by Mayor Jerry Barilla.

So, if you have a problem with the registration requirements, blame Barilla, who vetoed the ordinance to repeal the requirements. Don’t blame Johnson, who was not on council when these two votes were taken, and whose actions and vote allowed the citizens to speak at all meetings.

My husband and I attended most council meetings during Johnson’s term in office. Since the changes to the public forum, we no longer attend the meetings, and that’s not Johnson’s fault.

Marlane Figurski