Scott Tibbs

June 10th, 2005

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Free speech is vital at public hearings

Governor Mitch Daniels
Office of the Governor
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2797

Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2797


It has come to my attention that the Indiana Department of Transportation has issued new rules prohibiting distribution of literature at public meetings on the route for I-69. The following is from the June 8, 2005 edition of the Evansville Courier:
The department defends the new policy and says it will be in effect during public meetings that are held in places reserved for the agency's use.

It says that to reduce the potential for lawsuits, people and groups cannot set up tables, displays or banners during such meetings.

"To facilitate crowd movement and safety, the circulation of petitions and/or other materials within areas reserved for the department's use also is prohibited," the policy states.
I respectfully disagree with this policy. While I support the extension of Interstate 69, I believe it is very important that opponents of the highway have the right to express their opinions on the matter. Until the state highway department begins building I-69, the debate is not over.

It has been suggested that this policy is aimed at Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads, which has a presence at many hearings on I-69 and distributes literature against the highway. I sincerely hope this is not the case. The thought of state government restricting the right to free speech because those who dissent against government policy are effective is a frightening thought indeed.

I understand that I-69 opponents have gone over the line at times. The vandalism of the historic state house in Indianapolis is one example, as is the inexcusable behavior of some highway opponents at a 2002 hearing here in Bloomington. However, distribution of literature or setting up an information table is not disruptive in and of itself. If the behavior of highway opponents is disruptive, they can be removed from the meeting.

My concern is the precedent this sets for meetings on other matters before state government. Once you establish that you can restrict the right of people to distribute literature against I-69, will pro-life or socially conservative groups be subject to similar restrictions by other arms of state government?

I think your restrictions are unwise and overly burdensome. I strongly encourage you to repeal these new restrictions, which even some supporters of I-69 think are an abuse of power. With state government in a precarious financial position, taxpayers can little afford a potential lawsuit that the state will likely lose.

Scott Tibbs

Cc: Indianapolis Star
Bloomington Herald-Times
Indiana Daily Student
AM 1370 Bloomington