Citizen Comments Will Air on City Channel - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/18/05

Citizen Comments Will Air on City Channel

From now on citizens who want to address city council will have to give seven days prior written notice and their comments will air on the city's Channel 2. The council voted to make the change after facing criticism for removing citizen comments from meetings broadcast on Channel 2. The fact is: airing citizen comments has never been policy. Actually they've only aired comments a handful of times in the seventeen years council meetings have been broadcast. Usually because an agenda item was brought up after citizen comments.

Regardless, the decision to make sure citizen comments do not air has drawn strong reaction from both sides. Citizen Craig Cooley told council, "This is our television station. It's not yours. Who do you think you are? I am telling you, we will not stand for this. You will not use our money to prefabricate information and exclude what you don't like cuz it's embarrassing or inappropriate or maybe even untrue." Citizen John Miller adds, "People delegating authority do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know."

Citizens concerned about open government had their chance to speak before council, and the council spoke back. Mayor Marc McDougal said, "You get people who walk up here and make outlandish accusations about citizens of this community, not council. I don't care what they say about me, but accusations against citizens in this community that are totally false and that should not be aired on Channel 2 period."

Council maintains they are not trying to censor citizens. They are trying to keep attacks they can't respond to from airing repeatedly on Channel 2. Open meeting laws do not allow council to comment on anything that's not on their agenda, meaning they can't correct false claims. Councilman Gary Boren says, "Censorship works both ways. We don't need to censor ourselves as a body to respond."

Because of the outcry from citizens like Johnnie Jones who says, "All we have is our voice. Please don't silence it." and Cooley who says, "Never forget you work for us and we expect accountability and we will fire you." In a four to two vote, council decided to compromise. They adopted a policy the Lubbock Independent School District has used for years: any citizen wishing to address council must give seven days written notice, so their request can be placed on the agenda. Floyd Price and Linda DeLeon opposed. DeLeon explained, "We have senior citizens come before this council that may not have ability to put in words what they want to talk about. You're limiting the ability of citizens to come before this council."

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