A radio campaign sponsored by Lake Ozark Watchdog to protest Lake Ozark’s recently approved disorderly conduct ordinance drew only a handful of concerned citizens at Tuesday night’s board of aldermen meeting.
The group ran a series of radio spots prior to the board meeting urging residents to attend the meeting and speak out against the ordinance which toughens the city’s public conduct rules.
In February, the board amended an existing ordinance aimed specifically at individuals who violate a variety of social courtesies. At the request of Police Chief Mark Maples, City Attorney Roger Gibbons drafted the bill that would make it unlawful for a person to knowingly or recklessly engage in disorderly conduct in a public place within the city. The intent is to help law enforcement officers maintain peace and order, and to prevent conduct that might incite violence.
Five people addressed the board during the Public Comment portion of Tuesday night’s agenda. Four were opposed to the new rules, and one was supportive. Following established protocol, the board and administration listened politely but made no comment.
Laura Edwards, a regular at board meetings, was first to speak.
She stood not only in support of the ordinance but the board and administration.
“I’m very proud of the city of Lake Ozark for the progress you have made in the last three years,” she said.
Edwards thanked the board, the mayor, the city attorney and others for “being so professional and respectful to not only each other but the public.”
She encouraged the public to attend meetings on a regular basis to get a first-hand look at what the city has done, and what challenges it has.
But others weren’t so complimentary.
Brian Vanderveld, who recited part of the ordinance, wondered how the wording would be defined and how officers would determine what is or isn’t an annoyance.
“I think this is a huge free speech violation,” he said. “It seems like this is something being rammed down our throats.”
Betsey Browning, a Lake Ozark business owner and candidate for board of aldermen, said residents who have contacted her believe the ordinance is too broad and that the ordinance could be a free speech issue.
“I’m just telling you what people are saying to me. It’s upsetting,” she said.
Marvin Rogers said he felt that law enforcement was being given too much control and he did not agree with the ordinance.
Teresa Oxford, a visitor from Tulsa, Okla., said she found it offensive that the city was infringing on others’ rights.
Page 2 of 2 - “I won’t spend any more money where I can’t say what I want,” she said. “How do you determine who is right and who is wrong? Where do you draw the line?”
She said she would be “highly offended and upset” if this type of ordinance were passed in her small town in Oklahoma.
A person commits an act of disorderly conduct if he or she knowingly:
•Uses abusive, offensive, indecent profane or vulgar language and the language tends to disturb the peace of another person, invoking or inciting violence in another person, or causes alarm or annoyance in another person.
•Makes an offensive gesture or display and the gesture or display tends to disturb the peace of another person, invoke or incite violence by another person.
•Insults, taunts, challenges or threatens another person in a public place that tends to disturb the peace of another person, invoke or incite violence.
•Engages in fighting, brawling or other violent behavior.
•Obstructs or hinders the movement of people in vehicles on any public street or highway
•Creates a condition that presents a risk of physical harm or injury
•Displays a firearm or other dangerous weapon in a public place in a manner that tends to cause alarm to another person
•Without any lawful authority disturbs lawful assemblies or meetings.