Tag Archives: citizen

Citizens can video on duty police —Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has declined to review a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision that struck down an Illinois law prohibiting audio recordings without permission, echoing last year’s First Court decision that you can record police on the job. Let’s remember it’s not just police:

“Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting

‘the free discussion of governmental affairs.’

That means all elected or appointed or employed government officials, from County Commissioners and City Councils down through sheriff and police departments to the Animal Shelter. Police are employees, not elected or appointed, so these rulings would appear to apply to other governmental employees.

Radley Balko wrote for Huffpo 27 November 2012, Supreme Court Inaction Boosts Right To Record Police Officers,

The Illinois and Massachusetts laws have been used to arrest people who attempt to record on-duty police officers and other public officials. In one of the more notorious cases, Chicago resident Tiawanda Moore was arrested in 2010 when she attempted to use her cell phone to record officers in a Chicago police station.

Continue reading

The sun came up on a different world —Julian Assange

Julian Assange of Wikileaks spoke from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London today (video, text):

The next time somebody tells you that it is pointless to defend the rights we hold dear, remind them of your vigil in the dark outside the Embassy of Ecuador, and how, in the morning, the sun came up on a different world, and a courageous Latin American nation took a stand for justice.

The British government made a stunning mistake in throwing away the worldwide goodwill just gained through the London Olympic Games, by actually beginning to storm a sovereign embassy in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that was observed throughout the Cold War. How could they be so foolish? This man, this reporter and publisher, they think is somehow more dangerous to them than the armed might of the Soviet Union was? This is as if JFK arrested MLK after John Glenn’s first orbital flight (a step which JFK fortunately did not take).

There is something you can do, even when the world is turned upside down:

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“We’ve been chosen” —Barbara Stratton

Received Saturday on Public hearing doesn’t mean the public gets to know anything. -jsq
I’ve made these same comments before. It’s just part of the attitude that is popular with some elected & appointed officials “We’ve been chosen. Now go away & don’t ask any questions about what we are doing until it’s time to vote again.” I don’t think all the individuals share the attitude, but some do & over time it has become standard procedure. Hopefully, as more citizens pay attention & ask for more insight procedure will adjust. There is a reason for open meetings & sunshine laws & it’s not so citizens can listen to or read about decisions based on information they are not allowed to hear or observe.

-Barbara Stratton

More County Commission Transparency: Chatham County, Georgia

The Chatham County, Georgia Board of Commissioners has its agendas and minutes online. The agenda for 2 December 2011 does not include the detailed packet materials for most of the items to be voted on. However, it does include a table of dollar amounts and other details for bids that were to be voted on, so the public doesn’t have to go to the work session and scribble down what staff read aloud.

There’s also this interesting boilerplate:

Proposed changes to ordinances must be read or presented in written form at two meetings held not less than one week apart. A vote on the following listed matters will occur at the next regularly scheduled meeting. On first reading, presentation by MPC staff and discussion only by Commissioners will be heard.

Comments, discussion and debate from members of the public will be received only at the meeting at which a vote is to be taken on one of the following listed items.

So in Chatham County the Commission can’t just decide one day to change an ordinance.

Also it appears that the public does get to discuss and debate ordinance changes.

The minutes for 2 December 2011 contain quite a bit of detail as to who said what. Plus for each agenda item that was approved it includes the agenda packet information, such as item IX-2 on the right here, which is about local participation in jail construction.

This isn’t as transparent as Travis County, Texas. Chatham County doesn’t put the agenda packet items in the agenda, and doesn’t do videos. But it’s still more transparent than Lowndes County, Georgia, which doesn’t provide agenda packet items unless you do an open records request for each item you want to see.


The missing Lowndes County public hearing for Comprehensive Plan Updates

Four local governments followed the rules, one appears to have left citizens out of the process.

According to their letters of transmission to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Valdosta, Hahira, Remerton, and Lake Park all held public hearings on the Short Term Work Programs and Report of Accomplishment documents.

Here is video of the Valdosta Public Hearing.

The Lowndes County resolution does not say that a public hearing was held. That’s because no public hearing was held, as you can see in the video below.

A public hearing was listed in the agenda of the 11 October 2011 Regular Session of the Lowndes County Commission.

7. Public Hearing
a. REZ-2011-13, Fred’s Dept. Store, 4401 Bemiss Rd., 145c-90a, 2.0 ac., water/sewer, C-H(c) & C- G(c) to C-G
b. Greater Lowndes 2030 Comprehensive Plan Updates – Lowndes County Report of Accomplishments (ROA) and Short Term Work Program (STWP)

However, citizens were not invited to speak for or against the document. In fact, the document was not provided to the citizens for comment and an open records request for the document has not been satisfied by the county. Here is video of items 7a and 7b.

The County’s Resolution to Transmit says in part: Continue reading

Boston catches up with Atlanta: you can video police

Poilce are public employees, and the public has a right to video them doing their duty; so says a federal appeals court.

Pace Lattin wrote for Technorati, Federal Courts Rule it is Not Illegal to Film Police John S. Quarterman

The First Court of Appeals has reached a decision that would allow the general public to video-tape police officers while they are working. This decision comes right after several well-known public cases have come to light involving citizens being arrested for video-taping police.

This specific case in question was Simon Glik vs.The City of Boston (and several police officers), in which a teenage Simon Gilk was arrested after videotaping Boston Police abusing a homeless man. While Mr. Gilk was not interfering with the police, he was arrested on wiretapping charges.

The ACLU had sued on his behalf, even when the charges were dropped, noting that there was a growing epidemic of citizens in the United States being arrested by police for videotaping, even when documenting police brutality and abuse.

The First Court Agreed with the ACLU that this should be legal, and wrote that: “The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles [of protected First Amendment activity].

The Atlanta Police Department already avoided this problem by settling a previous case and making a policy that citizens can video police. This appeals court ruling now says anybody can, nationwide, because of the First Amendment.

Why has this become an issue lately? Continue reading

Proposed Lowndes County Budget published by LAKE —Gretchen Quarterman

Apparently there was a budget hearing last week that no one attended. I don’t see it on the county calendar.

We know it happened though because the paper reported on it.

The second budget hearing is scheduled for June 28 at 5:00pm and is on the Lowndes County web site calendar.

At the work session this morning, I asked Ms. Stephanie Black if she could e-mail me a copy of the budget and she said yes. Ms. Paige Dukes said that Ms. Black should not e-mail me the document, but I could look at a paper copy. A paper copy could be provided to me for $0.25 per page. I asked if there was an electronic copy and Ms. Dukes said that this document was not available in an electronic form.

Given that the document is neatly typed and clearly is generated from a spread sheet, I think that it is not true that this document is unavailable in an electronic format.

I asked if I could photograph it instead and Ms. Dukes said Continue reading

Lowndes County budget hearing today 5PM

That’s 5PM, before the usual 5:30 PM Lowndes County Commission regular session time, at 327 North Ashley Street. The county has published a public notice about this second hearing. It’s not clear they did that for the first budget hearing, which was last week. And the budget doesn’t include the T-SPLOST boondoggles Lowndes County is requesting.

VDT opined 23 June 2011, What We Think: Surviving, not thriving:

Lowndes County Commissioners held a budget hearing Tuesday to discuss the 2011-2012 fiscal year with citizens, only to have no citizens appear. The budget will be finalized at a public hearing Tuesday, June 28, prior to the regular commission meeting.

With all of the attention paid lately to officials and their expenses, you would think that the opportunity to learn how the county spends citizens’ tax dollars would have been an opportunity not to be missed. But missed it was.

After giving people in Valdosta a hard time for not showing up at their city’s budget hearing, I have to say: mea culpa. I wasn’t there.

However, I would ask: how were we supposed to know about it? Someone from LAKE has been at every regularly-scheduled Lowndes County Commission meeting in the recent past, videoing the whole meetings, and I must have missed the announcement of this recent budget hearing, which is also not on the county’s website calendar.

The VDT continues:

Maybe it’s because there’s nothing new about the county’s budget. It’s the same as it has been for several years — flat.

No increases in revenue are projected. No new positions, merit raises, cost of living increases, or significant purchases, again. Caps on assessments, the continuing lull in construction, and slow sales mean no new revenue is coming in. What is projected is enough to make ends meet, but there are no frills, no luxury items, not this year.

Oh, there are luxury items, they’re just not in the budget, because the county is asking we the taxpayers to pay through the proposed new T-SPLOST tax for That’s $24 million in new taxes they’re requesting for unnecessary road projects that will promote sprawl into far north Lowndes County and into Lanier County. Sprawl that will end up costing Lowndes County more than it can bring in in taxes from the sprawling developments.

And Lowndes County has tacked onto the end a request for $7.5 million for a bus system. Which would you rather have? A bus system that would promote the entire county’s economy, or five lanes on New Bethel to add to Lanier County sprawl?

Fortunately, T-SPLOST does publicize its hearings, the next of which will be 6 July 2011 in Nashville, Georgia.

The VDT concludes;

But for Lowndes to thrive, to make such a possibility come alive, it needs citizens willing to participate in the process. We need creative thinking and we need leaders willing to listen to the possibilities of new ideas.
Hear hear!

Stay tuned for what happens when a citizen tries to get involved in the Lowndes County budget process.


LAKE as a news medium

We are the media, and you can be, too!

According to the OPEN Government Act of 2007:

[T]he term ‘a representative of the news media’ means any person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience. In this clause, the term ‘news’ means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. Examples of news-media entities are television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large and publishers of periodicals (but only if such entities qualify as disseminators of ‘news’) who make their products available for purchase by or subscription by or free distribution to the general public. These examples are not all-inclusive. Moreover, as methods of news delivery evolve (for example, the adoption of the electronic dissemination of newspapers through telecommunications services), such alternative media shall be considered to be news-media entities.
It’s pretty obvious LAKE qualifies as a news medium with its blog, On the LAKE Front, as well as its web pages and its facebook page.

Here is the bill’s full text. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy and 17 others, ranging from Sen. Barack Obama to Sen. Johnny Isakson. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush 31 December 2007.

Of course that’s really just a detail, having to do with the Wikileaks comparison.

Most of what LAKE does has more to do with Georgia law, about open records requests and this passage, O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1-c.:

“Visual, sound, and visual and sound recording during open meetings shall be permitted.”

None of that requires a news medium. Any citizen can file open records requests or record public meetings. Remember, you are the media!

-jsq for LAKE, the Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange

“the citizenry has a right to scrutinise the state.” –Julian Assange

Some people compare LAKE to Wikileaks, so let’s go there. Julian Assange, like Wendell Berry, links the civil rights movement and the environmental movement. He then says:
“For the Internet generation this is our challenge and this is our time. We support a cause that is no more radical a proposition than that the citizenry has a right to scrutinise the state. The state has asserted its authority by surveilling, monitoring and regimenting all of us, all the while hiding behind cloaks of security and opaqueness. Surely it was only a matter of time before citizens pushed back and we asserted our rights.”

LAKE’s motto is:

Citizen dialog for transparent process
That makes Assange’s proposition
“the citizenry has a right to scrutinise the state”
sound very familiar to us.

Locally it’s more a matter of elected and appointed bodies ignoring their chartered responsibilities to the public good and the general welfare. Well, many people are also tired of the permit inspection brigade, but that’s another story.

Assange also adds: Continue reading