On Friday, Oct. 24, Clearlake City Administrator Dale Neiman started the censorship machine rolling. At 11:45 a.m. he called PEG Station Manager Allen Markowski into his office to tell him he did not want my “Clearlake Community Forum (with Candidate Drop-in)” to be played again until he heard from the attorneys. Clearlake Mayor Curt Giambruno was present at this meeting.
And why should attorneys even be involved? It seems Mayor Giambruno caught the Clearlake Community Forum TV 8 broadcast on Tuesday, Oct. 21, and disagreed with at least one of the nine community spokespeople participating. This apparently was enough reason to go to the city administrator to have future broadcasts of this production banned. Neiman did what he could. The “wait for my attorneys” tactic was the equivalent of running the clock out since there was only one week left before the 72-hour election media blackout period.
TV 8 Manager Markowski pointed out the stalling tactic as well as the likelihood the action would be fought by me due to the time, money and other people involved. He restated the fact that cities have never lost a legal case over something that went over a public access channel but they have lost numerous censorship cases. This caused Neiman to do some risk assessment. He arranged for a phone conversation with the city attorney in two hours with Markowski listening in. Neiman’s only concern was risk to the city. The attorney’s response was that there was more risk in banning the video than from any likely broadcast problems.
That settled it. The “Clearlake Community Forum (with Candidate Drop-in)” was now “unbanned” as quickly as it was banned. But wait, there was still another excluded political event from TV 8. This was a traditional candidates’ event at the Calvary Church that was held on the same night as my forum. Giambruno went with most candidates to the Calvary Church. A church member video taped this event also. However, Giambruno discouraged the church at that time from submitting this video to TV 8.
This attitude of censorship exists in spite of my efforts to educate the City Council and the city administrator about the differences between a “type 3 non-public forum,” which assumes some government involvement, and a “type 2 public forum,” that can only be interfered with after going through a long and rigorous process, proving a “compelling public interest.” I provided packets of legal articles dealing with this issue to all City Council members and the city administrator so I don’t understand why this is a continuing issue.
By 5 p.m. that day Mayor Giambruno was asking Markowski for the phone number of the Calvary Church member who video taped the candidates’ event that he was in to see if the church was interested in putting that footage on TV 8. Having failed to fulfill his destiny as a public access censor, Giambruno was now going to reinvent himself as a TV 8 personality.
The issue sputtered to a close Saturday, with Clearlake Council member Joyce Overton roughly supporting the legal position through e-mails to the rest of the council.
Dante DeAmicis lives in Clearlake.