More Going around in the Dark

An Open Letter to the Mayor and Council

Mr. Mayor and Honorable Members of Council:

The late champion of the people, the Honorable Henry Howell, often said that there was “more going around in the dark than Santa Claus”. I am sad to say that your recent action, evidently behind closed doors, reaffirms the truth of what he proclaimed. Although I had heard some murmurings that council had adopted Ms. Psimas suggestions with regard to turning off the cameras during the non-agenda speaker portion of council meetings, I discounted it as rumor. Apparently, I was the one out of the loop. Today a friend provided tangible proof — an official communication from LaVoris Pace, Director of Marketing and Communications for the city, which states: “Portsmouth City Council Public Notice: Beginning Tuesday, January 8, 2013, Non-Agenda Speakers will NOT be aired on PCTV nor video streamed on the City’s website or YouTube Channel. Questions. . . Please call 393-8639.”

What I find particularly egregious is that you are stewards, not owners, of the broadcast spectrum through which these programs travel. It is the public who owns them. In fact, in many other communities, independent boards of citizens manage the public access channels. These essential communication links exist not for promotion of your own personal or political interests but rather to serve the best interests of the citizenry. I consider your recent action a violation of the public trust.

Since council has had no public discussion nor public vote on this new policy, I am wondering how it can legally be in effect. As I explore that aspect of the matter, I am urging everyone with an interest in this issue to contact you, as I am, to express their disapproval of the policy change itself. I also wish to inform you that until this decision is reversed, PortsmouthCityWatch.org stands ready to make video recordings of non-agenda speakers at council meetings and post those on YouTube under our own banner. As some of you may recall, I have prior experience as a videographer from the days when the city declined to record its work sessions. I have updated my equipment since then; it’s now lighter, more reliable, and capable of producing higher resolution video.

For the benefit of the public at large, I have simultaneously posted this communication on PortsmouthCityWatch.org.

Please let me know if you need additional information.

Yours truly,
Mark Geduldig-Yatrofsky, PO Box 50141, Portsmouth, VA 23703, 757 967-7298

Note: view the first public intimation that a policy change might be on the way at Gary Harki’s column on non-agenda speakers.

4 thoughts on “More Going around in the Dark

      • The next regular election for Portsmouth City Council will be in November 2014. The seats currently occupied by Council Members William Moody — who spoke out in open session against the policy change — Paige Cherry, and Marlene Randall will be in play.

  1. There have been non-adjenda commentary in the past that drew public attention to important events which the council did not seem to want the public to know about. If the ability of one citizen to inform another citizen is restricted by a secretive administration we all will suffer. We need the non-adjenda information available with the rest of the council meetings. Voice this opinion at the Tuesday meeting at I.C. Norcom at 7PM.

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