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.
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.