YUCCA VALLEY — During public comments at Town Council meeting Tuesday, two Yucca Valley residents voiced their views against a new ban on displaying signs or collecting signatures for petitions on the enclosed field during the summer concerts in the park.
“This policy severely limits my First Amendment rights,” said Matt Wilkinson, who held up signs at the event this summer. “You did this without notifying the public.”
Wilkinson often holds up signs at the intersection of Twentynine Palms Highway and Old Woman Springs Road as well.
Second speaker Anwaan Hines, a resident of Yucca Valley since 1992, said he supports Wilkinson and his right to be heard.
“Does that policy trump the Constitution for free speech?” asked Hines, who described himself as a government accountability activist. “I don’t see how someone can be limited on free speech. It doesn’t trump someone’s right to say it.”
The Town Council voted on Aug. 20 to enforce stronger rules at next year’s Summer Music Festival.
The new policy was passed without comment as part of the Town Council’s consent agenda — a list of items all voted on at once without discussion.
Keeping a safe and orderly atmosphere at the concerts is the town’s top priority, Community Services Manager Sue Earnest said.
“You want to curtail any distractions and disruptions,” Earnest said in an interview after the August meeting. “This addresses stuff for the future.”
Edison says fire danger still high
The council heard a detailed presentation from Southern California Edison about its plans to reduce wildfires.
“Be prepared for a emergency,” Southern California Edison spokeswoman Jennifer Cusack advised during her presentation. “It can happen anywhere at any time.”
Cusack said the region is now faced with the threat of a “year-round fire season,” and Yucca Valley too is included in this danger, but to a lesser degree than other places.
Southern California Edison uses aerial and ground inspections of its equipment and is working to reduce brush around poles to lower the threat of fire.
“Really, it is about reducing the risks,” Cusack said. “We’re doing a lot more vegetation management.”
In extremely dry and windy weather, Edison could shut off all the power in an area. This has not happened in the Morongo Basin so far, according to Cusack.
“We have not de-energized yet,” Cusack said.
Councilman Jeff Drozd praised the power company’s efforts.
“It is incredible all the work that you are doing,” Drozd said.
Councilmen Merl Abel and Rick Denison asked several questions about how outages would affect citizens and ways to keep trees from power lines.
“The message to be prepared is the cornerstone,” Denison said.
Pool report: ‘A great place to start’
The council concluded the meeting with an update on the recreation and aquatics center.
“It will be interesting to see what we end up with in the end,” Abel said. “It is not everything we want in one shot.”
Mayor Robert Lombardo agreed it is a “great place to start,” but said it is hard to imagine that, “$20 million won’t get you what you want.”