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Porter Busts Norse For Taping Meeting

Around 1:30 p.m. on Monday November 4th, Councilmember Ed Porter, Chair of the Downtown Issues Working Group, arrested Robert Norse of Downtown-For-All because Norse refused to turn off his tape recorder during the public meeting of Porter's Task Force. Ironically, Norse was busted for "disrupting a public assembly."
COUNCILMEMBER ARRESTS REPORTER FOR TAPING PUBLIC MEETING
FREE RADIO BROADCASTER FACES MISDEMEANOR CHARGES

Santa Cruz, CA. -- On Monday November 4th, at 2:30 PM, Councilmember Ed Porter made a citizen’s arrest of Free Radio Santa Cruz reporter Robert Norse in the City Manger’s Conference room, charging him with “disrupting a public meeting.” Police declined to arrest Norse themselves but did so on Porter’s “citizen’s arrest” citation. The arrest took place a meeting of the Downtown Issues Task Force
[DITF], a group combining sub-committees of City Council & the Downtown Commission, charged with overseeing the controversial Downtown Ordinances. Formed 2 months before, this was DITF’s first meeting.
The Downtown Ordinances are municipal codes that make 95% of the public sidewalk illegal for sitting or peaceful sparechanging. On January 15th, even harsher restrictions are due to be imposed on street performers and political tablers. After public protest last summer and the Downtown Commission’s failure to come up with larger permitted zones this summer, City Council formed the DITF.
The DITF includes two City Council members & three members of the Downtown Commission. Ten minutes into the Monday meeting--its first after having been formed two months before, Chair Ed Porter noticed a small tape recorder sitting on the table and asked Norse to turn it off. He declined to do so, saying the meeting was public. Norse also claimed the meeting was also covered by the Brown Act, the public meetings act. Assistant City Manager and DITF staff member Martin Bernal--who said he had spoken
with City Attorney John Barisone--denied the meeting required Brown Act protections.
Norse reminded Porter of the error City officials made in February 2002 when then-Mayor Keith Sugar tried to close a meeting of two committees of the Citizens Police Review Board [CPRB] and the City Council. Sugar ordered Norse to leave & was told by CPRB Counsel Bob Aronson that Norse was right, contradicting Barisone’s ruling that the Sugar could order Norse out. Sugar responded by adjourning the meeting, meeting privately in his office & holding no further meetings of the group for the next six months.

Porter said he objected to Norse’s playing tape recordings on Free Radio Santa Cruz “without permission.” Norse noted later: “There is no reasonable expectation of privacy nor a requirement that permission be granted for statements at a public meeting--especially statements from public officials.” Instead, Norse offered a compromise--that some neutral party have custody of the tapes and that they simply be made accessible to the public. Vice-Mayor Emily Reilly was present & suggested that Norse should
not record “as a courtesy to the Chair.”
Said Norse afterwards, “If Ed wants privacy, he should retire to private life. He’s a public official & this was a public meeting. I have a job to do as a radio broadcaster. If he’s going to arrest the media for every tape recording, the police will be mighty busy.”
Two police officers then cited and released Norse outside City Council officers for misdemeanor violation of PC403 “Disrupting a public assembly.” “If it’s a public assembly,” asked Norse afterwards, “How could making an open tape recording to play for the public be a disruption?” Norse faces up to 6 months in jail & $1000 fine. He is due to appear in court 8:30 AM on December 12th.
“Why is Ed Porter afraid of having his words recorded?” Norse asked. “The whole incident seems
to be a part of the Reilly-Porter closed door process that created the Downtown Ordinances. These laws were admittedly pre-written before any public testimony was taken. Reilly & Porter ignored the finding of the
Downtown Problems Committee testimony last summer that police harassment was a major concern. The laws were rammed through in four unprecedented City Council sessions in the space of 15 days last summer.”
“Now, after many musicians have been driven from the downtown and numerous tickets issued for “homeless” offenses, they are trying to do another swift and dirty patch-up job out of public view.” Bernal made no official audio recording of the closed meeting though equipment to do so was available in the room.

Norse will be playing selections from the ‘illegal’ tape of the DITF meeting on Thursday 11-7 at 7:30 PM on his
Free Radio Santa Cruz show Bathrobespierre’s Broadsides along with in-studio guest outgoing Mayor Christopher
Krohn 6-6:40 PM. . A public hearing proposing amendments to the Downtown Ordinances is scheduled for Nov 19th.

 
 


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Porter-Reilly Contradict Themselves

When the "Gone In 1,209,660 Seconds"* Downtown Problems Committee meetings were convened last summer, Reilly asked if anyone in the audience objected to being recorded. At that time neither Porter nor anyone else raised any blocking objections to being recorded. Porter even mentioned that he might like a copy of the tape so he could
review it later. There were some manner restrictions suggested, such as having yours truly who was holding the tape recorder not stand between the speaker and the
chairman/woman of the meeting. But the recordings were allowed to continue uninterrupted.

Some sort of detailed record of the meeting needs to be made, or what is the point of having the meeting? Are there even official minutes, as is the case for a regular city council meeting? Or are the results tallied using individuals' selective memories?



* 1,209,660 seconds is 14 days and 60 seconds.
 

Porter in double bind

The complaint against Norse's taping of the above meeting includes a copy of the decorum rules for the front office area. These rules were made up by Fitzmaurice in response to Norse's habit of tape recording and loitering in the front office reception area as part of the coffee klatch three, who were attempting to get the city council to introduce legislation modifying the sleeping ban. Ultimately the three were served with a Temporary Restraining Order at the behest of Anna Brooks, baring them from the front office area. The TRO was thrown out at one of the first court hearings on the subject. Hence the rules that are now posted in the front office. Except that there is just one problem with Porter using this list of rules to say that Norse is not allowed to tape the meeting. While the rules state that no tape recording is allowed, they also say that no meetings are allowed either. So what justification does Porter have for holding a meeting in violation of the front office rules?
 

Update on Councilmember Porters "No Tape Recording Here" Bust

The following is a “cleaned up� version of the November 2002 post as well as a May 2003
Update.
C L E A N E D U P V E R S I O N :

COUNCILMEMBER ARRESTS REPORTER FOR TAPING PUBLIC MEETING FREE RADIO BROADCASTER FACES MISDEMEANOR CHARGES


Santa Cruz, CA. -- On Monday November 4th, at 2:30 PM, Councilmember Ed Porter made a citizen’s arrest of Free Radio Santa Cruz reporter Robert Norse in the City Manger?s Conference room, charging him with “disrupting a public meeting.�

Police declined to arrest Norse themselves but did so on Porter’s “citizen’s arrest� citation.
The arrest took place a meeting of the Downtown Issues Task Force [DITF], a group combining sub-committees of City Council & the Downtown
Commission, charged with overseeing the controversial Downtown Ordinances. Formed 2
months before, this was DITF’s first meeting.

The Downtown Ordinances are municipal codes that make 95% of the public sidewalk illegal for sitting or peaceful sparechanging. On January 15th, even harsher restrictions are due to be imposed on street performers and political tablers. After public protest last summer and the Downtown Commission’s failure to come up with larger permitted zones this summer, City Council formed the DITF.

The DITF included two City Council members & three members of the Downtown Commission. Ten minutes into its maiden meeting on November 4th, Chair Ed Porter noticed Norse's small tape recorder sitting on the conference table and asked him to turn it off.

Norse declined to do so, saying the meeting was public and that he was a regular radio broadcaster. Norse also claimed the meeting was also covered by the Brown Act, the public meetings act.

Assistant City Manager and DITF staff member Martin Bernal--who said he had spoken
with City Attorney John Barisone--denied the meeting required Brown Act protections.

Norse reminded Porter of the error City officials made in February 2002 when then-Mayor Keith Sugar tried to close a joint meeting of two committees of the Citizens Police Review Board [CPRB] and the City Council. Sugar had then ordered Norse to leave & was told by CPRB Counsel Bob Aronson that Norse was right, contradicting Barisone’s ruling that the Sugar could order Norse out. Sugar responded by adjourning the meeting, reconvening privately in his office with select individuals & holding no further meetings of the group for the next six months.

Porter said he objected to Norse’s playing tape recordings on Free Radio Santa Cruz “without permission.� Norse noted later: “There is no reasonable expectation of privacy nor a requirement that permission be granted for statements at a public meeting--especially
statements from public officials.� Instead, Norse offered a compromise--that some neutral party have custody of the tapes and that they simply be made accessible to the public.

Vice-Mayor Emily Reilly was present & suggested that Norse should not record “as a courtesy to the Chair.�

Said Norse afterwards, “If Ed wants privacy, he should retire to private life. He’s a public
official & this was a public meeting. I have a job to do as a radio broadcaster. If he’s going
to arrest the media for every tape recording, the police will be mighty busy.�

Chair Porter held up the meeting for fifteen minutes until the arrival of two police officers, demanding repeatedly that Norse leave.

Two police officers then cited and released Norse outside City Council officers for misdemeanor violation of PC403 “Disrupting a public assembly.� “If it’s a public assembly,� asked Norse afterwards, “How could making an open tape recording to play for the public be a disruption?�

Norse faces up to 6 months in jail & $1000 fine. He is due to appear in court 8:30 AM on December 12th.

“Why is Ed Porter afraid of having his words recorded?� Norse asked. “The whole
incident seems to be a part of the Reilly-Porter closed door process that created the
Downtown Ordinances. These laws were admittedly pre-written before any public testimony was taken. Reilly & Porter ignored the finding of the Downtown Problems Committee testimony last summer that police harassment was a major concern. The laws were rammed through in four unprecedented City Council sessions in the space of 15 days
last summer.�

“Now, after many musicians have been driven from the downtown and numerous tickets issued for ‘homeless’ offenses, they are trying to do another swift and dirty patch-up job out of public view.� Bernal made no official audio recording of the closed meeting though
equipment to do so was available in the room.




5-3-03 Update from Norse: The District Attorney’s office didn’t notify me, but charges
were never filed in this case. Ed Porter, invited on my radio show to explain his concerns,
never returned any calls. Two other witnesses watching the incident---one member of the
public and one member of the Downtown Commission commented afterwards that they
felt the arrest had been unjustified.

No local news media other the indymedia provided any coverage of this incident
though it was a member of the press who had been barred from a public meeting.

On May 2, I filed a claim against the City for damages in this matter. The City has
45 days to respond and will presumably reject the claim without discussion. Ed Porter’s
telephone number is 420-5024, should anyone be interested in getting his side of the story
or expressing concerns about open public process, censorship of the media, capricious and
arrogant use of power to punish critics, or any other aspect of the situation.

No public record of the November 4, 2002 Downtown Issues Task Force meeting exists, since Porter barred any tape recording of it. I hope to post the entire incident shortly on this website for those who wish to review it.

The Downtown Issues Task Force held one more meeting--this one in a larger room with other media present--including myself several weeks later. At that meeting I recorded without
objection and without permission. A prior call to Porter asking if that would be allowed was not answered.

The results of that meeting led to much testimony that street performers be allowed to follow the traditional voluntary guidelines they had used for 22 years. The Downtown Commission implicitly recommended those guidelines, a continued negotiation process with performers, and limiting the “no performing� forbidden zones to 6’ from a building as provided in the 1994 law.

Instead, City Council conservatized by the addition of Mathews and Rotkin and the reelection of Fitzmaurice, voted for the first-in-the-nation “move along� law (an Ed Porter suggestion) that required all performers with display devices and political tablers to
“move along� every hour whether asked to do so or not on penalty of $162 fine (or up to
6 months in jail for the second offense). The Council also expanded the “forbidden zones�
to play with a “display device� to 10’ from a building, bench, kiosk, crosswalk, telephone,
outdoor street cafe, or drinking fountain.

Promises that special exemption zones would be carved out made by Vice-Mayor
Kennedy were never kept. The Downtown Issues Working Group never met again. Nor
were promises kept to clarify whether a cup asking for donations or an open guitar case
constituted a “display device�.

The ordinance did include a special exception for musicians in the panhandling
ordinance that exempted them if they were engaging in musical performance for donation.
Musicians still report regular harassment from police--under the move-along provision as
well as using older “excessive noise� and “display of merchandise� laws.


Perceived problems like shoplifting, violence, grafitti, abusive drug use and sales, and sexual harassment were ignored by Council--and no new legislation, guidelines, or further public discussion took place. The Reilly-Porter community discussions, supposedly the meeting of the "stakeholders" evaporated. With merchants assured Reilly and Porter were simply passing their laws, they didn't bother to show at the one "stakeholders" meeting attended by Reilly. Police didn't show either, though they were asked to come.

Why bother when Council gave police a blank check to engage in “selective enforcement?� "Who would be so foolish as not to move along when told to do so by the police," explained Councilmember Rotkin as he 'explained' the selective enforcement process.


A resolution passed by the dying Citizens Police Review Board against selective
enforcement was never placed on the Council agenda--as required by the 2001 Porter
rules governing resolutions coming from City Commissions. Instead of following the
Porter rule (which governs city council), Reilly helped abolish the Board itself.

Street Performers led by Colleen Douglas, who met regularly throughout the fall to
lobby against these laws, did not meet again after January (when the repressive new laws
were unanimously passed). Up-scale performers like Morgami--the accordianist with many costumes are ignored by police--while others like C.J., an impoverished but fine street guitarist--are repeatedly harassed.

Musician Cosmic Chris reports many musicians have been driven off the mall and
has himself largely moved to an indoors venue at the Union Cafe (formerly the Jahvahouse) 7-10 p.m. on Monday nights.

Mike True, arrested last year for “display of merchandise� (his musical art work), is still working on getting together a class action lawsuit.

Leave a message at 423-HUFF to support this lawsuit or to report incidents. Better still, write ‘em up yourself and post them here on indymedia.org !
 

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