Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Busman's Holiday: PA Sunshine: Videotaping Public Meetings

Thank goodness for Bob Mayo from WTAE TV and the Busman's blog. Yes. Thanks Bob for the notice and the care.
The Busman's Holiday: PA Sunshine: Videotaping Public Meetings A thank you to Mark Rauterkus for calling attention in this post to an attempt by the chair of the City Planning Commission to block his use of a video camera. It prompted me to do some checking online and in person.
Read the rest of the post at his blog.

Today was the day when the city planning commission was to meet again and release its rules for video taping their public meetings.

I went by the outside of the building at 200 Ross Street while they were in session, but, I could not attend. I was just speaking at another 1:30 pm public hearing in city council chambers on the new vacant property ordinance. And, a 2:30 I need to be picking up my child from school.

From people & vips
I'll call or visit the planning office tomorrow and might call again to the chairwoman too to find out what they propose.

So, for the moment, I'm without hard news.

However, last week when Mayor Ravenstahl, Mr. Ford, the Zoning Coordinator from City Planning and a handful of others from the administration were on the South Side I had some spirited discussions about this matter. The zoning coordinator felt no remorse and fully justified to instruct the public on what could and could not happen from one's seat at "their" meetings.

He felt that I should have seemingly asked permission before I took a few moments of video at the meeting when they were debating legislative matters.

"Hey pal," I said. "With 'rights' -- I don't need to ask you for permission."

He thought that there was a lot of case law to back him up. They had been reading up on this.

I told him it wasn't my intention to sue the city planning commission. But, that was the first blush reaction that came from the chairwoman when I first came to understand that the meeting came to a stop and signs were posted. The first day I shot the video and walked out the door. Then the planning commission folks at the front of the room got wind of my camera. But I had already departed.

After a back channel conversation or two, the chair came up with the idea of making this a topic for conversation among the staff and to work on an official policy. So fine.

The kicker of this incident came on the heels of another that involved my camera and a public meeting. I testified at the third public meeting hosted by PAT concerning the service cuts. TV cameras were all over the first two meetings on the first day, at the Hilton and in Oakland. I went into the Oakland meeting and got some film. But the tide turned. A PAT Police officer told me at the third meeting that I was not permitted to use my camera.

Here again, I was just sitting in my seat, mingling among the audience. I don't use a big tripod nor lights like Bob Mayo and TV crews.

I'm not okay with their actions. I'm calm and cool on the outside, but on the inside I'm hacked off. To make matters worse, I walked home from that meeting that PAT hosted with a former opponent and present D candidate for city council, Bruce Kraus. I told him what just happened with the PAT police officer, blah, blah, blah -- and he said it made sense to not be allowed to video tape a public meeting about a public agency. Golly.

Click clown and watch the video that opened the show.
I hadn't had this much fun nor emotion with a video camera since working on the PCTV 21 show, The Art of News.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did Kraus really say that....well, not surprising. I guess he wants sleezy government, who is afraid to face the public. Mark, keep on taping, let them know they are being watched and ARE accountable.

Your only going to have to tape Kraus once, nothing changes with him...same old crap from him, save the tape!