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I think my freedom of speech has been denied; you make the decision.

Marengo, Ind.

On Aug. 4, 2009, in Marengo, a sign was hung on the town hall door that stated, "Discussion on the trash ordinance will not be allowed tonight." The trash ordinance is a hot local issue and has gotten about half of the town mad at the other half.

The board members were afraid the meeting would run long, and I don't blame them. They could have imposed a three-minute time limit and everyone would have been happy. There are about four of us who talk, and for 12 measly minutes, they denied me my right to free speech when I was not allowed to speak.

What if every town and politician could ban discussion on topics they didn't want to talk about? Richard Nixon would have been laughing when he hung his sign on the White House door that said, "Discussion on Watergate not allowed." Lyndon Johnson would have been jumping with glee when he hung his sign that said "Discussion on the Vietnam War not allowed."

At the public hearing, I arrived prepared to speak for about five to seven minutes. On arrival, I was informed that speech would be limited to three minutes. The time limit restrictions were not advertised in the public notice. I believe that time limit restrictions are required by law in Indiana, but I don't know for sure. I intend to find out.

On Sept. 14, 2009, one elected official announced to the crowd that the trash ordinance was a done deal, they didn't want to talk about it anymore, and any questions or comments should be referred to their attorney. An argument ensued over the ban on trash discussion and I was given a few minutes. I pointed out what was a possible loophole in the ordinance. The board members agreed it might be a problem and would check with THEIR attorneys the next day.

I have found that to fight will be prohibitively expensive. Especially if I am paying for my attorney and paying for their attorney with my tax dollars.

After the argument with the one elected official, I was told that in the future, if I wished to speak, I would need to call in advance, be added to the agenda and my topic OK'd.

I feel the ordinance still has errors and is discriminatory, but, to my dismay, fighting it is "prohibitively expensive."

The town has added a $1 service fee to the bill. A fee is "a REWARD for SERVICES." The town performs no services to be rewarded a fee. The trash company picks up the trash and another does the billing; the town does nothing.

A tax is "a contribution levied by authority," and that's what this is.

When asked what account the money would be put into and what it would be spent on, the statement was made that it's their money and they would put it where they wanted and spend it on whatever they wanted to.

If the money is spent on projects that benefits all, then all should pay, not just those who have water/sewer service. But fighting it is also "prohibitively expensive." It is a shame that fighting unfair taxes and suppression of free speech is prohibitively expensive. I don't think that's what the founding fathers had in mind.

Thank you for allowing me to exercise my right to free political speech.

Gary Robinson
September 23, 2009

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