From the March 10, 2005 meeting of the El Paso County Board of Commissioners: 

Commissioner Douglas Bruce: I want to welcome my four traveling colleagues back to the real world from the puzzle palace on the Potomac as Ronald Reagan called it...

My comment this morning I discussed before the meeting with the chairman [Jim Bensberg] and I was advised early on that the way to be effective is to work behind the scenes and try to line up three votes for a proposal to an item, which may or may even not need formal resolution or action, and I tried to do that and on one part area I got to two and not to three [votes] and I think its important that having tried to work the system behind closed doors, so to speak, that we all have an opportunity to express our opinion on this subject. It isn't a major subject but I think its important symbolically and otherwise, and that is the presence of free publications being given, in effect given advertising and promotional space in the county lobby and the lobby of other county buildings. There are a number of publications, I think we know what they are because we pass by them and they are right under our photos down in the lobby and I don't think that we should be in the business of promoting private publications at all regardless of content, but in at least in one case the content is particularly obnoxious and should not be the subject of any sort of implied county endorsement, promotion, assistance, support whatever you want to call it.

One of my colleagues said that he wouldn't want to have this publication in his living room for his children to read and I agree with that sentiment. I think all of us ran as social conservatives and candidates who support family values and the publications down there do not unanimously promote those values and I think by our having them in county building, where as I understand it a county employee brings them in from the sidewalk and opens them up and stacks them on county property in the lobby, the first thing that people see when they walk in to the county building. I just don't see that we should be in that business.

Another colleague expressed concern about First Amendment considerations and the potential chilling effect. I don't think there's any chilling effect because there's nothing in the First Amendment that says the government has to sponsor or promote or distribute items from a free press. A free press doesn't mean a subsidized press. The contents of one of the publications are in part so disgusting that we couldn't discuss them at a public meeting, but I certainly don't think that it's a First Amendment issue. These publications can be out on the rack on the sidewalk, and we are entitled to control what goes on in the county building -- we certainly are going to discuss that on Monday with the issue of the firearms policy that the county has and the firearms are specifically protected by both the federal and the state constitution. There is no guaranteed constitutional provision of the press being allowed to have their publications inside county property. During our orientation tour when we walked around the county buildings to get familiar with them and I noticed in this building in particular that the employees were reading these free publications at their cubicles during work hours and its understandable that they might have a subliminal message that we the board of county commissioners encourages or endorses them doing so because we are providing them a publication here on county property. I think we have a responsibility to all the citizens in terms of the content of the material and the implied endorsement of particular material and if that means not having any of these so called free publications being housed in county property then I think that that's the appropriate solution.

I also heard indirectly that there was a question potentially by the county attorney that the picking and choosing would potentially have a First Amendment issue because we would be discriminating on the basis of content. But that is not my proposal. My proposal is simply that the county have a policy, which I don't believe, according to the county administrator, needs a resolution, it simply needs the expression of consent of three members of the board that we aren't going to have newsracks and piles of free publications being distributed, promoted by El Paso County. So based on those considerations I would like to have an, hear the comments of my colleagues and see whether or not there are three votes to actually stand up for those socially conservative family values we all campaigned on.

Commission Chairman Jim Bensberg: Anyone care to start?



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