A local mayor called police on a resident for filming council meetings, raising questions about transparency and public accountability.
By Jonathan Sher, The London Free Press
That’s one reason the mayor of a township west of London says he called cops last week to stop a critic from videotaping a council meeting. For years, you see, no citizens attended council meetings at the tiny township office of Adelaide Metcalfe, pop. 3,000. They just didn’t.
But that changed after energy companies proposed building up to 70 wind turbines. Since January, dozens have packed a makeshift gallery and a young woman who once babysat the mayor’s kids has been setting up a camera and posting videos to YouTube.
Videographer Esther Wrightman kept calm during the clash Monday, asking police what law she was breaking and turning the camera off after a police officer said he would otherwise physically remove her. But when the meeting ended and Wrightman made her way outside, her racing heart gave way to tears. “I did cry — it just hit me what we have all tried to do, and what we didn’t have left — how powerless we were,” she recalls.
Mayor David Bolton defends his call to the cops, saying after weeks of videos being posted on YouTube, some council members had grown frightened of speaking at all, lest they say something stupid. “That was preventing an open and full discussion,” Bolton said.
But that’s not how another council member, Kurtis Smith, sees it. “If it is something that the individual doesn’t want recorded on video, it likely shouldn’t be said at all,” he told The Free Press. “Without the public engagement . . . council members cannot make informed decision.” Smith says he had no problems with the videotaping and was caught off-guard when Bolton called police. “I was not aware of the (mayor’s) plan,” he said.
The fight over wind turbines in rural Ontario played a big role last fall when voters turfed the McGuinty Liberals from those ridings in the provincial election. But in Adelaide Metcalfe, the issue boiled over in January after council set building permit fees for turbines lower than critics had called for and did so at a meeting when that topic wasn’t on the public agenda. Read article