As regular PortsmouthCityWatch.org followers are aware, PCW has been diligently following city council and school board candidates from one public forum to another with a video camera. Thanks to YouTube, we have been providing information from such gatherings to the public in C-SPAN style — i. e., just as it happened. At the most recent forum, though, I received an unexpected request. Shortly, before the meeting began, the moderator asked me, on behalf of an unnamed individual or individuals, not to record it. I inquired as to who the person submitting the request might be, but the moderator declined to provide a name. As the forum was a public proceeding, I rejected his request.
Those of you who follow PortsmouthCityWatch.org through the web site or Facebook are doubtless aware that we have begun a series of postings examining the official record of Council Member William E. Moody, Jr. In our opinion, he has served the city poorly during his sixteen years on council; we do not, therefore, endorse his election to a fifth term. Some of the reasons for this unfavorable judgment are already documented (see The Moody File: Money Matters), and documentation of others is a work in progress. Our suspicion is that CM Moody was the person requesting the “broadcast blackout” of the forum.
A few days before the meeting in question, PCW had made its critique of CM Moody’s job performance in an open and visible manner. Cognizant of our aversion to his reelection, he might have feared that we would “doctor” our recording to undermine his candidacy. No doubt, someone who carried a concealed listening device into a closed meeting of council could readily conceive of others engaging in similarly underhanded activities. If self-protection were his motivation, however, he could have just asked that we omit his speeches and responses from video. That approach, of course, might have afforded an advantage to competing candidates with less name recognition and smaller campaign treasuries, something he would not want to risk.
We have additional reasons to suspect CM Moody as the prime mover behind the blackout attempt. First, at a city council candidate forum much earlier this season, we overheard him cautioning the moderator about the mischief people with cameras could make. On that occasion, we proceeded as we had intended, and once he saw the posted video, CM Moody ended up thanking us on social media for having invested the time and effort in creating it. Presumably, he was pleased with his own showing relative to that of the competition.
Secondly, we have instance of the curious little cemetery sign vignette CM Moody trotted out at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Leadership Steering Committee forum. (You can hear the account from his own lips 23 minutes and 25 seconds into the video at http://youtu.be/4GfaFig9X2A.) The executive summary is that a family member of one of the folks interred at the cemetery, which is located behind the intersection of High and Frederick, objected to all the campaign signs. In his opinion, it was disrespectful to the dearly departed. Despite the fact that the signs were outside the gates and that they have gone up at that location every campaign season for at least the last 18 years, CM Moody, being the sensitive and caring public servant that he is, decided to remove his own advertisements. When that story hit the grapevine, the other candidates folded like a house of cards. Consequently, Mr. Moody, whose signs are spread across much of the city like a kudzu invasion, effectively denied to his competitors a highly visible location previously available to all comers.
Like many other incumbent officeholders, CM Moody has a sense of entitlement about the advantages that status affords him. Recognizing that we cannot eliminate those advantages, we at PCW are dedicated, nonetheless, to telling the truth as we know it, keeping the record straight, and leveling the playing field for the challengers as much as humanly possible. Our cameras remain at the ready to serve the public interest.