Friday, March 23, 2012

Torrance County Commission Open Meetings - round three

It began with Torrance County Commissioner Lonnie Freyburger offering a resolution banning recording equipment in County Commission meetings.

Round two, the March 14th meeting, saw the motion tabled for re-examination.

Round three, next Wednesday.

I am told that the resolution will return with additional and different, but no less bizarre, restrictions; a 24 hour notification of the County Manager (of the intent to film?), restrictions on camera noise, light restrictions (?) and a requirement that all cameras must rest on tripods. Will the commission supply tripods to citizens who haven't yet bought a tripod for their flip phone?!

Citizens have a Constitutionally protected human right to petition their government in whatever manner they choose. Those rights are limited only by respect for the rights of other citizens to participate in meetings in the manner they choose.

Their lawyer's opinion, the more access given to the public the better, but it needs to be controlled so all members of the public have the opportunity to see the meeting, hear the meeting, and and not be disrupted, is sound but doesn't justify unnecessary restrictions. Just because someone says someone else with a camera is interfering with their right to participate in the meeting, does not establish the validity of their complaint.

Just because someone thinks a handheld camera disrupts commission meetings, does not establish that it does. Suggesting that a tripod in any aisle represents a safety issue, regardless of the remaining width of the aisle, does not establish the existence of any real safety issue.

Just because someone is in favor of restricting others' rights, doesn't justify the restriction. That one person claims "she can't do her job with cameras rolling", does not outweigh another person's right to record.

It is pretty clear that there is at least one commissioner wants to put an end to citizens making their own recordings of board meetings. Having been advised by their lawyer that they can't do that, now they're grasping at straws in an effort to make it more difficult.

The commission's fundamental position appears to be that the onus lies upon citizens establish their right to record meetings, as opposed to, the onus falling on the government to establish both their authority restrict citizen participation in government and the real need to restrict citizen participation in whatever manner they choose.

Round three should be interesting; the bell rings at 9 am, Wednesday next.

photo Mark Bralley

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