LETTER TO THE EDITOR: First Amendment rights at center of situation

Editor’s Note: The following is in response to the article titled “Trash talk leads to trustee discussion,” April 16.

Without question America is in a heated struggle. Some say it is between the Right and Left, rich and poor, or still others say it’s between tyranny and liberty. Perhaps the answer is some combination of those.

Police probably see it more than most. “First amendment auditors” go about recording the police and challenging law enforcement actions. As annoying as it may be, we can all admit that sometimes, it’s an important “check” on power.

Both the Left and Right argue on when and how the “checks” are applied, but they both participate in and agree that checks and balances must be maintained against the government, whether federal or local.

One of Americans’ most fundamental rights is the freedom afforded by the First Amendment which gives us freedom of speech, especially against and regarding the governments. While we all may try to take some free speech from each other sometimes, none of us tolerates the government doing it to us.

SNAP came in with a concise, clear explanation of an event that happened. The event was rather simple and not dramatic, but certainly not inconsequential. It was reported that Commissioner Asciutto was politicking by offering his card to folks, and one person rejected his card and responded something along the lines of “I don’t take cards from…” Insert whatever political party you want, that’s beside the point. I don’t take cards from the X party.

Well, that offended Commissioner Asciutto to the point that he wanted to bring up the incident at a meeting. He communicated that he didn’t feel a trustee for our local community college should say such things.

Feeling that way is certainly fine, and saying that is certainly fine, but bringing that up as the government (in capacity as commissioner) is an assault on the First Amendment.

The Board of County Commissioners should hope there are no repercussions regarding the trustee’s position to avoid further collateral chilling effect on the First Amendment.

The suspicion here is that Commissioner Asciutto was using his position to dictate what another public service member could say or think. This flex brought another public servant’s position into the limelight with the insinuation there should be repercussions. What repercussions exactly were you seeking, Commissioner? Shame? Removal? Was there any damage done besides to your feelings or your politicking?

Another commissioner came out in a comment on Facebook to criticize the incident even being in the news. Is this serious? A commissioner can certainly share their opinion, but the fact that the opinion is such that it criticizes the media for actually reporting on a commissioner possibly getting out of line raises other legitimate concerns.

Corruption in government is rampant. I think residents reject power flexes against free speech and opinion. I think citizens reject commissioners hinting to local media what they should and should not report on.

Never try to chill our First Amendment rights.

Bryan Maples
Albemarle