Column: Booing never made sense, but neither does a ban

03/11/2013 8:00 AM |

I’ve never been a big fan of booing. Maybe that’s because it’s such an unnatural reaction.

Screaming, crying, laughing, that’s all real stuff. You do it both on your own and in a group. When have you ever seen someone sitting by himself, booing?

Booing is something you do from a distance, in a mob, and when you don’t really care too much. If you truly hated that slumping athlete, you wouldn’t pay a small fortune to see him play. And if someone was really troubling you, I can’t imagine you’d use just one prolonged syllable to let them know how you feel.

Booing is a primitive distraction that accomplishes nothing — the caveman grunt of modern day reactions.

That’s why on some small level I can see why the Riverhead Town Board banned booing at its meetings, even if I don’t necessarily agree with them.

If you want to object to something a government body is doing, get up before the board and say something — offer a counterpoint or a solution.

We’re in the midst of a full year of politics in Riverhead and the surrounding towns. We’ve already had a special election for the North Fork seat in the county Legislature. And now that Dan Losquadro was elected Brookhaven Highway Superintendent last week, a May vote for the 2nd District seat in the state Assembly is on the horizon.

It’s also been an early town election season in Riverhead, where two challengers have already emerged to oppose a town supervisor they see as vulnerable, and a well-known candidate announced his intention to run for a Council seat before we even Auld Lang Syned in the new year.

It’s safe to say 2013 is going to be a loud year full of eruptions and disruptions at Riverhead Town Hall. Which brings me to what I don’t like about the resolution passed last week: the timing of it all.

The bill will enable the Town Board to admonish anyone they see commit a “disruptive demonstration” in a year where disruptive demonstrations at town meetings will be as common as constructive ones.

This resolution was not passed because booing had gotten out of hand at Riverhead Town Board meetings, but rather because a group of politicians is afraid it soon will. Personally, I’m never in favor of bills that do more to protect elected officials than the people they represent.

What makes this bill even more silly is its vague language: A “disruptive demonstration” is a broad, objective term that could include everything from a quiet belch to a screeching fog horn.

It’s going to be confusing, too, when Councilman Jim Wooten’s supporters start “woooooing” at meetings, as a sign of affection.

The biggest question of all, though, is what the punishment will be for those found in violation of the new code. Do they have to leave the meeting? Or  should they just pop their dunce caps on and retreat to the corner of the room?

It’s certainly an interesting resolution Riverhead has passed, but one that can be just as easily booed as it can be applauded.

gparpan@timesreview.com

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