Wednesday, September 02, 2015

You have to stand over there ...

The local TV photo journalists had been told to set up their tripods in a line along the west wall of the John Milne Board Room.

That is the worst place in the room for anyone with a camera and an interest in filming the public forum and the faces of speakers.

I’m not a fire marshal, but I’ve spent enough nights in Holiday Inns to know; a line of tripods paralleling an evacuation route is a trip hazard. Were there a real emergency and a panicked evacuation of the room; fully a quarter to a third of the occupants of the room would have to flee along the entire line of tripods.

Not only that but; the Open Meetings Act reads in significant part;

All meetings of any public body except the legislature and the courts shall be public meetings, and all persons so desiring shall be permitted to attend and listen to the deliberations and proceedings. Reasonable efforts shall be made to accommodate the use of audio and video recording devices. emphasis added
It is reasonable to tell all persons so desiring, that they cannot record from places where their recording creates a safety hazard or for some other good and ethical reason.

It is not at all reasonable to tell people where they must stand, if they want to record the meeting.

There is one place in any public meeting where audio and video recording should always be allowed; where "a reasonable accommodation" is made;
anywhere; everywhere, except where there is a good and ethical to not.
I asked for and received from the Chief of APS’ police force, permission to stand in a particular place, out of APS Executive Director of Communication Monica Armenta's media corral.  I asked for an opportunity “to record Jacob Vic’s face during public forum" and "with the room as a backdrop".   I would add that both are legitimate needs and require reasonable accommodation.

As Vic finished, and as only eight people had signed up (we'll get to that in another post), I changed my mind and decided to record the entire public forum from my vantage point.

When the forum was done, the board moved immediately into a statement from the newly minted interim supt. Since I had a clear shot of at least the side of her face; I kept shooting.

And then the cop showed up.

I was summarily, albeit professionally, respectfully, politely, deprived of my liberty and a reasonable accommodation of my efforts to record public officials in public meetings.

Before I was escorted away;
  • I was the only member of the press holding a recording device with a reasonably full view of Jacob Vic’s face when he told the school board why he intended to have the most of them recalled. 
  • I held the only recording device with a clear view of (half of) APS Interim Supt. Raquel Reedy’s face when she made her first ever appearance before the school board as the interim supt.
None of KRQE, KOAT, or KOB has similar footage because prior restraint had been levied on their reporting. And as far as I can tell, they’re not the least bit bothered.

I was removed from my reasonable accommodation;
tight up tight against the north wall (in order to steady myself and my camera) and in a corner,
by a member of APS' publicly funded private police force.

The APS police force reports directly to and only to the leadership of the APS. They are uncertified and un-certificated as a police department. Contrary to the law, they will take action (ejections/arrests) if so ordered by a board member or administrator.  Even when they themselves, have witnessed no criminal misconduct.

I had asked for and was given permission by APS Chief of Police Steve Gallegos, to stand outside of the "media" space. There is no place further away, and no place with a worse view of anybody but board members than that space.

I overstayed my permission,  Frankly, I shouldn’t have been expected to solicit and permission in the first place.   The room, every square foot of it, is ours but for good and ethical exception.

I was blocking no exit, blocking no aisle. If the room need to be de-assed for any reason, not only would I not have been in the way of the de-assing, I would have been leading it – I was already on my feet and tend to pay close attentions to orders to evacuate.

For those keeping score and, for whatever it's worth;
  • Supt. Reedy has decided to face the board during meetings; her back to stake and interest holders and TV cameras.
  • Before her, Supt. Luis Valentino joined the board on the dais; facing the crowd.
  • Before him, Supt. Brad Winter turned his back to the room.
  • Before him, Supt. Winston Brooks sat with the board on the “deity” and facing the crowd.
  • As did the Supt. before him, Beth Everitt.

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