Friday, September 3, 2010

Letter to Editor Valley Patriot

I was asked to write a statement on the open meeting public record law pertaining to the Legislative Branch in Massachusetts.

For the past 6 years I personally as Catch of the Day, Video News, Freelance Reporting, have been doing investigative research taping and documenting Public Hearings, Press Conferences, and Events at the Statehouse. I was motivated to do this study when I was told the Public Hearings are not recorded, in audio by steno or by video-archive methods.
I was given the reason they are simply not required to keep this record. In fact, they could somehow prevent me from doing the above and prevent anyone from taping a public meeting. This is against public policy under open meeting law but they made the statement many times to this Reporter. When I would point this out to other Press, they simply stated they are not under the open meeting law. That was not acceptable to me in any way or fashion. So I decided to keep the pressure on and keep taping.

I have now accumulated over 450 public meetings at the Statehouse. But this spring I had an experience that changed everything, at least for me. Each request to tape was reciprocated with a pro bono copy of the Hearing for the Committee. Over time the Legislative Members of the General Court have complimented my efforts and dogged persistence to continue. I have met resistance as well. But when they are pressed to the wall as with my Bill Senate 1458 they are not eager to change the status quo.

What brought this entire picture to a new level was a visit to the Senate Clerks office to check on coming meetings. The window outside the Clerks office is very dark. The House Clerks window at least has a light over it. I use my camera to scan the meetings. This day the window would not show up. Ticked off I decided to visit Secretary Galvins office. When entering I explained the window was so dark I could hardly capture it with my lighted camera. The person smiled and stated , well they don’t even have to post a notice. I could not believe my ears. What I exclaimed?? You mean they do not even have to post a meeting?? No they don’t she continued. So I said, please ask an Attorney to speak to me. There are Attorneys in the office at all times. Not only one but two came out. No, they don’t have to even post a meeting or let the public know if they have one.
Shock and Awe on Beacon Hill. It took me a few hours to recover I must say.

I have been personally schlepping all over the place for 6 years, room after room, Committee after Committee to get the meeting dates. Some have volunteered to give me a schedule. Others arrogantly tell me to check with Statehouse News. Which by the way, a subscription is around 300.00 dollars a month. That is hardly a public Press entity.

That is when I decided to just back off awhile, I made up a Petition and put it on my website. I plan to place one in every mailbox on Beacon Hill. You need to think this through. What does this mean to every red blooded Massachusetts Citizen?? It means the Statehouse is exempt from law as the City is. They took themselves off public record law in the 80’s. I don’t care what the reason was, they were wrong then and are moreso now.

This is tyranny at its peak. Demand they be under open meeting law immediately. Any Candidate running this year 2010 should have one mantra if they want your vote. Yes, I will be under open meeting law! I will help to make this possible and not subvert the judgement of law by interjecting a loophole.

When under the law the public meetings held will have 48 hour notice, be video-archived, and be accessible when occurring and later to the citizenry. For 60 years we have had access to computers and video. Why has this not taken place?? It is all about arrogance. Do you want to see the Government open and transparant. This is the answer.

Do you think our public records should be a heap in the file or a true record with legal standing in Court. A video record is standing in Court. Even the Attorney General has used my film. Please do not let this fall to the ground. This is the most urgent message to both sides of the issues. We need this transparency to begin.

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