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Easthampton housing agency reverses videotaping stance

Several small, permanently mounted cameras in the second-floor meeting room of the Easthampton municipal building provide video images for coverage of the City Council meetings by Easthampton Cable Access Television. The Easthampton Housing Partnership has reversed its original decision and will now begin videotaping its meetings.
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Several small, permanently mounted cameras in the second-floor meeting room of the Easthampton municipal building provide video images for coverage of the City Council meetings by Easthampton Cable Access Television. The Easthampton Housing Partnership has reversed its original decision and will now begin videotaping its meetings. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Purchase photo reprints »

One of the three city committees that previously had voted to not videotape its meetings has reversed that decision.

The Easthampton Housing Partnership unanimously voted Wednesday to begin taping its meetings using a community access television camera mounted in the meeting room for that purpose.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday a City Council subcommittee is slated to discuss possible rules that would require videotaping of public meetings.

The city purchased the cameras in order to increase the number of meetings that could be made available on local cable access channels and online, and Mayor Michael A. Tautznik in October asked boards to start activating the cameras during meetings.

The October memo prompted the Housing Partnership, Community Preservation Act Committee and, most recently, the Development and Industrial Commission, to vote that they would not use the cameras to record their meetings.

Two longtime volunteers, Robert Harrison and David Boyle, have left their positions on three city boards in protest of the videotaping.

Harrison, formerly a member of both the CPA Committee and the Housing Partnership, was the one who suggested the committees vote to not record meetings.

On Jan. 2, Housing Partnership member Jacqueline Brousseau-Pereira asked that the board reconsider the decision.

“We’ve had a bunch of changes in membership, and I think people felt like we should talk about this again,” Brousseau-Pereira said in a telephone interview Friday.

In addition to Harrison, the partnership also recently lost former members Andrew Tilbe, Melissa Boyle Pike and Victoria Netto, though Brousseau-Pereira said she thought that their decisions were unrelated to the videotaping issue.

Brousseau-Pereira was the only member who opposed Harrison’s suggestion initially, but Wednesday’s vote in favor of videotaping the meetings was unanimous.

“As the Housing Partnership, one of the things we want to do is educate the public about affordable housing and issues relating to it, so this is another way we can be accessible and out there,” she said Friday.

Now the volunteer committee, which works to increase and preserve affordable housing in the city, is recruiting new members to fill the four vacancies.

Brousseau-Pereira said she hopes the fact that the new meetings will be videotaped and broadcast on cable television and on the ECAT website will not deter people from joining.

“It’s definitely something that we’ll let them know about,” she said of the videotaping.

According to the attorney general’s office, the state’s Open Meeting Law requires public bodies to allow people to record their meetings, but does not require the bodies to record themselves.

On Tuesday, the City Council’s Rules and Government Relations Subcommittee is scheduled to discuss the subject of city boards videotaping at its meeting.

The panel will consider a rule proposed by Councilor Daniel D. Rist that would require only City Council subcommittees to record the meetings because city councilors are elected officials, as well as talk about possibly requiring all city boards to tape their meetings.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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