Friday, August 28, 2009

Letter to the BRA and Mayor about videotaping and transparency at public meetings

Dear Mayor Menino, Ms. Donovan and Ms. Cusick:

I was recently at a meeting in Brighton regarding the CharlesView apartments. A Mr. Rourke who was running the meeting for the BRA announced as the meeting was starting that someone wished to video tape the meeting and that he couldn't allow that unless the everyone at the meeting agreed to be videotaped, in other words, if any one person didn't want the meeting videotaped, the gentleman could not video tape. I asked Mr. Rourke if this was a public meeting and he responded that it was. I then announced that my understanding of the Open Meeting Law is that anyone may videotape any meeting as long as they do not interfere with the proceedings. The gentleman proceeded to video tape the meeting.

I conferred with the District Attorney's office who indicated they have written to the BRA with the opinion that all public meetings are allowed to be video taped. The District Attorney's office informed me that the BRA has taken the view that the BRA is not necessarily subject to the Open Meeting Law in all cases, and that the State of Massachusetts wiretapping law is applicable to the videotaping issue.

Needless to say this is very confusing to the public which is invited by the BRA to come to meetings. I would like to request a formal written policy (if there is not one already). I would suggest that the announcements for the meetings let the public know whether videotaping will be allowed or not.

The best solution, in my opinion, is for the Mayor to come out in support of transparency and to require the BRA to make all of their meetings be subject to the Open Meeting Law. I would like to request the Mayor's position on this issue. The public often feels as if promises are made by the BRA and developers which are not kept later in the development process. Videotaping these meetings is a way to document the community process and the promises made along the way, which can help to assuage fears that the neighborhoods are not being respected during the process.

Finally, could you please let me know whether videotaping will be allowed at the September 2, 2009 BRA community meeting in the Fenway and the BRA IAG meeting in South Boston on September 8, 2009. If you will not allow videotaping please list the reason why.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to your clarification of this issue for the public.


Kevin McCrea

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