Thursday, January 6, 2011

Censorship Rears It's Ugly Head At The Roosevelt Island Residents Association January Meeting And Wins - For Now

 Image of January 2011 RIRA Meeting From Trevre Andrews

As a result of this post in which I published Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Committee Reports provided to me by RIRA President Mathew Katz (which I have done many times before without any objections), the RIRA Common Council approved a resolution last night to restrict the distribution of committee material to the media and others unless approved by a 2/3 vote of that committee. I will have more on this later and am awaiting receipt of the resolution from RIRA so I can have the exact wording of it and then post on blog. I believe the vote was 17 to 12 in favor of censorship. (UPDATE 1/10 - CLICK here for the two RIRA resolutions and spreadsheet of how each RIRA member present voted)

In the meantime, here are some thoughts about the meeting from a relatively new resident of Roosevelt Island, Trevre Andrews, who was attending his first RIRA Monthly Common Council. From Mr. Andrews:

Last night after getting off work I stopped by the Sports dome for the monthly RIRA meeting.  I have lived on the island for a year and this was the first RIRA meeting I have attended.  After a slow start the meeting focused mostly on committee reports and why/when/how they should or shouldn’t be provided to the island residents.  There seemed to be a lot of confusion about the purpose of the committees, their reports, and their availability.  This culminated in a resolution to try and define and limit information generated by RIRA and its committees which was adopted by the RIRA council.  

I have yet to see the text of the resolution, I just heard it described verbally and for that matter there is little electronic documentation available anywhere on RIRA except small pieces on various websites none of which are RIRA websites.  Supposedly, as reported in this meeting, a website is being created to fix this and make all/most RIRA documents electronically available.

Based on what I saw last night I don’t think many rooseveltians would take RIRA very seriously, but there is always hope for the future. I dare you to join us next month and see what I mean. 
Mr. Andrews also provides this video of the censorship motion's introduction at the RIRA meeting.

You Tube Video Of RIRA Censorship Motion

Concerning this situation, a reader of the objectionable post commented:
I can see the above poster's point. The real issue is that Rick was given this information by the RIRA President. If it was not intended to be made public, Matt Katz should have never given it to Rick. As the President, he should be more careful of what information is made public and he was irresponsible not to provide the full report of the actual meeting that took place.

That being said, if someone gives information to Rick, and then they realize they shouldn't have and ask him to remove it, he should have the courtesy to do so. If he doesn't, he runs the risk of them not sharing information with him in the future.
To which I responded:
This has nothing to do with courtesy. Once information is given to me that is not off the record or told in confidence and is posted - it is news and will not be taken down because it is embarrassing to some or inconvenient to have been made public.

The information was lawfully obtained, was not defamatory towards anyone and was an issue of public concern to the Roosevelt Island community.

As a result of this post, the RIRA Common Council voted last night to restrict the distribution of committee material to the media and others unless approved by a 2/3 vote of that committee. I will have more on this later and am awaiting receipt of the resolution from RIRA so I can have the exact wording of it and then post on blog.
Stay tuned for more.

UPDATE 4:20 PM - I neglected to mention that approval of a second resolution was sought to impose some form of sanction against any RIRA member who disclosed information not previously approved for distribution. Fortunately, that resolution was defeated.


Anonymous said...

Rick, I was a J major in college and I'm more than prepared to back up that you are entirely in the right from a journalistic perspective.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I am wondering what kind of sanctions that would have been? Kiss the emperor's feet before all meetings?

Anonymous said...

What business is RIRA conducting that would be hurt by transparency? This elected body is meant to advise another the RIOC. It has no decision-making power, no personnel, nothing deserving of any semblance of confidentiality. Shine a light.

Anonymous said...

Simply put, "They don't have their stuff together."

I was going to use another word begining with 's', but then the post would have been removed. LOL.

Anonymous said...

This nonsense didn't go on when Frarance was the RIRA President. Katz should be put out to pasture.

Anonymous said...

Dear neighbours,
for you who did not attend the meeting, you should start attending, you missed a whole lot of other information that no one is discussing on this board.
I see how the focus is strong twoards RIRA becoming secretive like RIOC, no transparency, resrict publications, while it is really more twoards protecting RIRA, Council Members and you from some one who has evil intentions of missusing RIRA's name and putting their reputation on the line because he/she has personal agenda/s and wants to hurt you, your career, or other organization's efforts to make R.I. a civilized , loveable, peaceful and community oriented place.
I believe that we shouldn't foster individuals with evil intentions.
This is my journalistic perspective:
Since meetings of RIRA and the committees are open to all to attend, hear and witness the action, why are you accusing them of non-transparency?
Nontheless, I belive that RIRA has the right to vote on what should be public to best serve the community and what should not be published to protect the wellfare of this community.
Again, we voted for those folks and we should give them our support, not our grieve.

Anonymous said...

Katz is one of the primary fantasizers about the nature of Roosevelt Island. He doesn't even understand that RI is not a "raucous river town" (his words) and not a housing development in New York City. We need some realists both in RIOC and RIRA, instead of those who have finally found a small enough pond for them to be big fish.

Anonymous said...

What happened to the spreadsheet you posted with who voted what on the censorship issue? Don't tell me you pulled it... I needed to know who not to vote for next time around.


The RIRA Censorship Resolutions were not removed. Here is link

There is also link at top of post as an update.

You can also tell your building reps and other Council Members that you want them to change their vote at next meeting.

Joyce Mincheff said...

To think that personal or private information does not come before committees of RIRA is indicative that the person does not really understand what RIRA does.

Not everything that comes before the committees is sensitve, but some of it is. And not defaming people when they turn to us for help, is our responsibility. If not, they would not turn to us for that help.

Rick disclosed information that was part of a discussion. the discussion had not reached a conclussion, in fact, ultimately, the conclussion was that it lacked merit and was dropped. The information was defaming. It could injur the person's reputation as well as causing them further hardship.

Newspapers are full of stories these days about people who had were bullied by innapropriate, defaming or humiliating data. Is that really what we want from Rick? Do we want the blog to become a place where inuendo is spread through the internet with no regard for its toll on people?

Just because an accusation is raised, and there are many accusations and rumors that the committees deal with,does not mean its true.

Ultimately, the report of the committee, the end product of its work and research, is released. That report is public information. If, however, a committee feels that their work is of a sensitve nature that could inappropriately hurt someone, and they are not complete with their analysis of the situation, their deliberations should not become grist for Rick's sensation mill.

Jurors provide a verdict, not a mid-stream report of their deliberations.

Lets not feel that Rick's first amendment rights give him the where-with-all to exploit people in an unsupportable fashion, to his benefit. Minutes of committee meetings, due to Rick's lack of journalistic common sense, will be released to him when the people you elect to do right by you are convinced you won't unneccesarily come to harm by doing so.

We are a small community where people know their neighbors and their neighbors' neighbors. That's one of the reasons we like it here; we're not lost in the abyss of anonimity that exists in the City. I think we should be able to expect common sense from our blogger in upholding decency and fairness to our residents. Rick has demonstrated that we can't expect it of him. The resolution was needed.

Joyce Mincheff said...

Also, regarding the update over the defeat of the resolution pertaining to sanctions- it was defeated because the prevailing sentiment was that such sanction already exists in the constitution.

No one on the Council is ever restricted from giving their private opinion on any subject, but contacting government agencies or the police precinct, or speaking to the press as if one has the authority to SPEAK FOR THE COUNCIL, is not acceptable behavior.

We are all one out of many, and it is the right of the collective Council to deliberate and determine a collective opinion. While contrary opinions, even by Council Members, are encouraged, expressing them as if the person represents the collective will of the Council, is a misrepresentation.

Circumstances that took place in the past few days, and could have proved very damaging to someone, indicated that there are Council Members who do not understand the distinction... hence, the motion.



You are distorting what was published. The material published was not merely part of a discussion, preliminary minutes or work product of a committee but was the final Committee Report produced by both the Public Safety Committee and Housing Committe for the January RIRA Meeeting. The Committee Reports were provided to me by the RIRA President after submission to the Common Council. In regard to the Public Safety Report, I subsequently learned that there was additional information submitted to the RIRA President but never sent to me. Had it been sent, I would have posted it as well.

The bottom line is why shouldn't the Roosevelt Island public be able to review and evaluate the same final Committee reports as the Common Council?

I have been publishing RIRA Committee reports in the same manner since April 2009. If you have a problem that these specific January reports were published on this blog, your remedy should be to make sure that better reports are written and that the President of RIRA proofreads them before sending them out to the Common Council and the media.

Don't blame the messenger if you are embarrassed by the work of some RIRA Committee members. Just take more care in what is put in writing before it is sent to the Council.

Also please be careful when throwing around terms like "defamation". There was no defamation here unless you define that to be any criticism of an individual's behavior.

The response to critical charges is to provide additional information not restricting it.

Anonymous said...

I think Joyce Minchef should be the RIRA President. Hopefully, she will when Matt's term is over in 2 years.

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