Public comments to be blacked out of TV broadcasts

Oklahoman Modified: August 6, 2008 at 10:04 am •  Published: August 6, 2008
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BARTLESVILLE -- Comments from members of the public will be blacked out of televised broadcasts of City Council meetings here under a new resolution.

Over cries of censorship from some residents, the council voted 3-2 this week to prevent the at-home audience from hearing public comments.

Councilors supporting the ordinance said there had been too much "grandstanding" with a televised audience.

Mayor Tom Gorman said public comment is not required by the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act, but added that he wants to continue to hear from residents.

He also noted that comments made during nontelevised meetings were "sparse."

Public comment will be allowed during the first 15 minutes of council meetings only — then the TV cameras will be turned on.

"Just because we have the legal right does not make it the right thing to do," said Councilor Vic Holcomb, who opposed the measure. "This just flies in the face of open and honest government, and I would be ashamed to be on the council if we approve it."

Tulsa's City Council doesn't televise the public comment period that occurs at the end of its meetings. Additionally, Bartlesville's school board also has adjusted its public comment policies.

Some residents criticized the council, expressing fear their voices could be silenced entirely someday.

"This strikes right at the heart of my core values," area resident Sharon Hurst said. "It prevents the public from hearing public comments on public issues at a public meeting.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.