Putting blinders on TGOV: What's Bartlett Jr trying to hide?

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Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr is pushing for a policy change to Tulsa's local government cable channel that would hinder public transparency and accountability in city government.

Today, Monday, January 23, 2012, at 2 p.m., in City Hall room 411, the TGOV Coordinating Committee will meet to discuss:

Whether or not to continue broadcasting meetings of Authorities, Boards, and Committees, including recommending entities, such as Tulsa Metropolitan Planning Commission, Transportation Advisory Board, HUD grant committees. etc. 11.451-14

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From KTUL's story, "TGOV Content Up For Debate":

The mayor's administration told News Channel 8, they're all for transparency but that concern arose when the Transportation Advisory Committee suddenly appeared on TGOV without going through the process of appearing before the TGOV committee, and that the administration wants to make sure everybody follows the same process.

I asked Council Administrator Drew Rees, via email, who and what prompted this agenda item. His response:

The issue arose when the Mayor's office requested that TGOV not broadcast the Transportation Advisory Board meetings, because they did not believe TGOV should broadcast committees which were purely "recommending bodies." (Other such recommending bodies are the TMAPC, and various CDBG committees.)

To answer your next question, it is my understanding the Mayor does not want these meetings filmed or broadcast in any manner by TGOV. And finally, the TGOV Coordinating Committee approves all policies and all major operating decisions. The Chairman of the TGOV Coordinating Committee makes all day-to-day operating decisions. (see Title 12, Chapter 7, section 703.)

I hope this helps. Monday is a public meeting and you are welcome to attend. If you cannot, you are welcome to send me an email and I will distribute it to the other Committee members at the meeting.

In reply, I wrote:

Much of the substantial discussion about a city decision takes place in the recommending body, with the decision maker (City Council or Mayor or both) often deferring to the recommending body's judgment without comment or discussion. For this reason, video recordings of Tulsa's authorities, boards, and commissions are central to the public understanding of the official actions of city government. TGOV should work to its maximum capacity to record these hearings, should make all of them available online, unedited in the original format, and should broadcast as many of them as the schedule allows. Not to record, post, and broadcast these meetings is a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of Oklahoma's Open Meetings and Open Records laws.

If there is a shortage of budget or personnel to record these meetings, I feel certain that many civic-minded Tulsans with video experience would volunteer to man the cameras.

TGOV exists for the same reason that C-SPAN does -- to let the sunlight of public awareness, which Justice Brandeis called the best disinfectant, illuminate city government's inner workings so that the citizens of Tulsa can intelligently exercise their rights to free speech, to petition the government, and to vote.

There are four members of the coordinating committee: Council Administrator Drew Rees, City Council Communications Director Matt Martin, Mayor Bartlett Jr's designee Lloyd Wright, and Information Technology director Tom Golliver (or his designee). Rees, as committee chairman, makes day-to-day decisions on TGOV content.

TGOV began its life as a dedicated cable channel for city government in 2004, but the local cable company (Tulsa Cable Television, now Cox Cable) had been broadcasting City Commission or City Council meetings for decades before that. Here's the 2004 resolution establishing the rules for TGOV.

A dedicated TGOV channel allows for broadcast of other meetings and events important to the citizens of Tulsa. TGOV regularly broadcasts the City Council's committee meetings, the meetings of the City of Tulsa Board of Adjustment (which handles zoning variances and special exceptions), the meetings of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (which hears changes to the zoning map and the zoning code and approves subdivisions), and occasionally other boards like the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy (TARE, aka the trash board, which isn't in the energy recovery business any more).

TGOV isn't just a cable channel any more. In late 2009, TGOV began offering online streaming at tgovonline.org of the same content that Cox Cable customers see on channel 24 and on-demand access to previous meetings. This development means you don't have to wait for the replay to roll around on TGOV; you can watch when you want, and you can easily point others to key moments in meetings.

That's why it's silly for anyone to be concerned about eating up broadcast time with committee meetings. With the ability to serve video from its website, TGOV isn't limited to 168 hours of content a week.

In July of 2010, the City Council passed an ordinance (22305) codifying the policy for TGOV (now Title 12 Chapter 7 of Tulsa Revised Ordinances); Bartlett Jr vetoed the ordinance, and the Council overrode his veto.

Bartlett Jr wanted to use TGOV as an economic development tool, according to this KOTV story from 2010. Who does he think watches TGOV? You can't get it in Atlanta or Sacramento or Dallas. It's there to give Tulsans insight into the what is being done in their name by city government.

I can't shake the feeling that the mindset from the Mayor's Office is: "If we keep meetings off of TGOV, then people won't know hear about issues that would disturb them, and everyone will think everything is just fine."

If you can't attend the meeting at 2 today, send your comments by email to drees@tulsacouncil.org

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2 Comments

Graychin said:

Update: the mayor was "misunderstood," and the telecasts will continue.

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20120124_11_A11_Thecit883553

Bob said:

Isn't Dewey, Jr. a client of Karl Algren, Oklahoma's own political Prince of Darkness?

Probably one of his strategies to deflect criticism away from Dewey, Jr. about the upcoming TARE 1x-per-week Trash-Collection-at-2X the Present-Cost Ploy, upsetting 32 years of stable business with Tulsa Refuse, Inc.

And, the upcoming TMUA decision to use chloramines to comply with a non-specific EPA mandate that will poison our pet fish, poison dialysis patients, and cause pitting of the soldered welds in the plumbing of older homes, causing lead to leach into our drinking water.

That's all.

Oh, and the upcoming Kaiser River Tax II Sales Tax grab.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 23, 2012 8:21 AM.

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