Residents in Yelm, Washington have to be careful what they say these days. They just might utter the banned words that strike fear into the hearts of town officials. The town council in Yelm has actually ordered that the dreaded words “Wal-Mart” not be uttered again at town council hearings. After all, children might be listening. Here’s an update from Yelm, where the First Amendment takes a back seat only to Wal-Mart: “The Yelm town council barred residents from mentioning Wal-Mart at meetings, prompting a challenge by civil libertarians who said a “free and accountable” government depends on a citizen’s ability to voice concerns openly. The retailing giant has an application pending to build a superstore, spurring controversy in the small town about 15 miles southeast of Olympia. In a letter to the council, American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Aaron H. Caplan said his group believes it is unconstitutional to ban any mention of Wal-Mart at
council meetings. The term “big-box stores” also is banned, as is “moratorium.”
For more information on the gag order in Yelm, the Yelm Commerce Group (YCG) with the website www.yelmcommercegroup.org has taken on this giant with a small well organized dedicated core group of about 13 individuals who have been barred from speaking at council meetings. First it was because the application to build a Wal-Mart had not been submitted. Then, after submission public input can’t be allowed because Wal-Mart might sue the town for allowing testimony or public comment because the council may show a bias. The Yelm Council has approved the application even though the town already rates a “D” in traffic congestion. This was up from an “F” by installing some turn lanes. The YCG has formally appealed the approval and it is now going to a hearing examiner. We wouldn’t want the Yelm Council, whose mind was made up, to be confused by the facts. Search by “Yelm” for earlier stories.