Brevard County Commissioner Kristine Isnardi And That Pesky First Amendment.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: We tried not to use terms that most people consider curse words in this post. We just couldn’t figure out a way to get that done without losing the flavor of the story. We apologize for the language.)

Brevard County Commissioner Kristine Isnardi became upset during a Commission meeting because she heard what she felt was “highly offensive” speech in the form of curse words from the audience. To set the stage, according to the Florida Today:

Much of the audience was [at the October 5 County Commission Meeting] to express opposition to a proposed zoning change to allow development of a new 40-home subdivision on a 26.11-acre parcel north of Smith Road and east of North Courtenay Parkway on north Merritt Island.

Nineteen people spoke in opposition to the project during the nearly two-hour hearing on the proposal. They were worried about the project’s potential for adding to the flooding, drainage and traffic issues in the area, among other concerns.

Only developer Noel Droor spoke in favor of the plan.

The county also received 48 letters objecting to the zoning change, as well as a petition containing 490 signatures in opposition. It received three letters of support for the project.

After hearing from the speakers, commissioners started their debate. From the commissioners’ comments, members of the crowd began to realize that a majority of commissioners would be voting in favor of the zoning change — overriding the recommendations of two county advisory boards to deny the request.

The assembled crowd then started to mutter and make comments about the Commission and Commissioners. Isnardi claims that she heard the term “bitches” being used.

We want to say that we don’t agree with the use of the term but we understand it in this instance. After all, the Commission had asked for input from citizens and ignored that input. Two County boards had recommended the project be denied and Commissioners ignored them too. It is frustrating when elected officials don’t listen to the people and to the various boards that are in place. We can understand the frustration of the members in the audience.

Isnardi said she was “offended” by the use of the language. She has every right to be “offended” and to say so. For us or anyone to say she isn’t entitled to her opinion would be the same thing she is doing – trying to deny others the right to their opinion.

Yet Isnardi seems to have forgotten that little pesky First Amendment of the US Constitution and Article 1, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution. Those would be the sections recognizing the rights of people to speak without government restrictions (other than time place and manner restriction which was later decided by the Supreme Court.)

Here’s what Isnardi said:

During her commissioner report at the end of the meeting, Isnardi said: “I get a little upset when we get attacked by the public, and I would just ask and implore this board that, when we hear obscenities that are loud enough for the entire room to hear, to where people are sending me emails and messages to that effect, I think that we all need … to ask for order. Because I heard some pretty horrible things, and I would never treat others that way. They wouldn’t say those things at the mike. But to say those things from the audience is quite offensive. So I would just ask that we hold the audience accountable as a board, at least for some order and some proper discourse.”

First, we aren’t sorry that Isnardi is upset that she gets “attacked” by the public. We are sorry that she sees disagreements with her as “attacks.” We are sorry that she decided to ignore the people and the two County Boards to vote for a proposal that even Jim Barfied, whose district includes where the development project is, voted against the project.

Secondly, we believe that discourse and discussions should be a little more civil than they are now. Yet it is not up to the government in the form of the Brevard County Commission and Commissioners to decide what is “civil” and what is not. It is not up to the Commission to decide what people can and cannot say. To do so would be a clear violation of the First Amendment based on the restriction of the content of people’s speech.

Third, if Isnardi wants to make a motion or ask that audience members not make comments that interrupt the meeting, she is free to do that and we would support her in that effort. That’s not what she wants. Isnardi never talks about the interruption or distraction of comments from audience members, only comments that she objects to. Isnardi’s issue is not that something is being said, but rather what is being said.

She, nor the Chairperson nor the government can restrict what people say. Period.

You might say, but “what about things like the f-bomb? Surely that can be stopped, right?”

No. It cannot.

The Supreme Court ruled in Cohen v. California that Paul Cohen’s conviction for wearing a jacket which read “F*** THE DRAFT,” was Constitutionally protected speech. (Sorry, but we can’t in good conscience use the f-word here. It was on the jacket spelled out.) Cohen had worn the jacket through Los Angeles County Courthouse and was convicted of “”maliciously and willfully disturb[ing] the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person . . . by . . . offensive conduct. . . .”

The Court overturned the conviction on the basis of First and Fourteenth Amendments.

In short, we are far more “offended” by another elected or governmental official thinking the Constitution (both US and Florida) doesn’t apply when they take office or work for the government. It’s as if people like Isnardi think they have the ability to say “bow down to my being offended at your speech!”

The bottom line is that while we believe people should be kinder and more civil, Isnardi is way out in left field when she advocates the government telling people what they can and cannot say.

Until she understands that, we’re “offended” by her sitting on the County Commission saying she wants the Commission to defy the law of the land and the rights of people.

(EDITORS NOTE: We have removed a section of this post in which we originally made a comment about Isnardi’s husband and the ongoing issues in Palm Bay. We decided that the two aren’t linked and the Palm Bay matter distracted from the issue we wanted to raise and discuss which is Isnardi’s lack of understanding of the US and Florida Constitution and laws, as well as her less than professional attitude in which she seems to think she has the right to not be “offended.”)

One Response to “Brevard County Commissioner Kristine Isnardi And That Pesky First Amendment.”

  1. Truthful says:

    Civility is always appreciated, and that extends both to the “pubic” attending and speaking, as well as to elected officials and staff who wield authority. First Amendment rights trump “offendedness”.

    The other salient issue is the approval of the zoning change allowing development of property, amid disapproval from two BOCC advisory boards and the public. It would be of value to look at all the details in this specific BOCC approval.

  2. […] we finished our post last week on Brevard County Commissioner Kristine Isnardi and her attack on the content of speech, we decided to write her […]