Mayor, Blanchette opposed
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
RIVERVIEW – The City Council passed a resolution at its Aug. 5 meeting which would curtail the ability of the press to videotape and photograph city meetings by limiting movement.
The resolution, which applies to the taping and video recording, as well as photographing City Council meetings, as permitted under the Open Meetings Act, would require that equipment be set up be before a meeting begins, and stipulates that “arrangements must be made with the city clerk to ensure that safety considerations are being met.”
The resolution states that items which could be considered safety hazards include the use of power cords and positioning which could be considered to impede access to an exit door.
The resolution also states that, unless an exception is granted by the “presiding officer,” video cameras, handheld phones and cameras, and other recording devices will be permitted only in “designated areas,” which were not defined in the resolution.
The resolution also states that cameras must be on a tripod, set in one location, and not moved from the approved location for the duration of the meeting.
At the Aug. 12 council study session, city officials did not insist that hand-held recording devices be mounted on a tripod.
The Aug. 5 resolution further stated that “recording devices must operate without additional artificial light.” City Clerk Cindy Hutchinson said that would prohibit the use of flash photography, which she confirmed with the city attorney.
At the Aug. 12 study session, she announced that the use of a flash with digital still photography would not be allowed during the meeting.
The resolution also prohibits the use of additional microphones set up within a meeting room in conjunction with audio or video recording, which television news crews often use to help ensure high quality audio, especially with a podium from which meeting attendees speak.
The resolution also states “the person recording or photographing must remain seated and stationary in the area designated for these activities” and that the press “is not permitted to walk around the room while recording or photographing.”
The resolution also states that the resolution applies to all meetings of the city council, including regular meetings, special meetings, study sessions and city council committee meetings, but do not apply to closed sessions, from which the press corps is typically restricted.
Hutchinson said Mayor Andrew Swift and City Council member Lynn Blanchette voted against the measure, which was passed by a majority vote of the council.
There was no wording in the resolution about enforcement or penalties, and whether residents would be subject to the same strictures as the media.
The resolution did not indicate where the press would be segregated, and did not include a timeline prior to meetings during which recording permission must be obtained.
At the recent study session, held in a conference room across the hall from the city council chambers, no attempt was made to designate a segregated media area.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])