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February 15th, 2016

 VERNON — A new policy regarding filming public meetings is being met with backlash from an assistant town attorney and a council member — despite Mayor Daniel Champagne’s assurance the policy has been fully vetted.

The policy to be voted on Tuesday cites a state statute that says the public has a right to film any public meeting. A Town Council meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall to discuss the policy.

However, the policy also states that “the Vernon Town Council has a right and obligation to conduct its business in an unimpeded and efficient manner,” which limits where cameras can be set up.

As a result, the policy would require all filming to be done from the back half of Council Chambers, and that camera equipment, such as tripods, should not impede traffic flow, obstruct the view of audience members, or block emergency exits.

If the policy were approved, the same rules would apply to meetings held in other locations.

Assistant Town Attorney Mark Branse says the policy is in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

He said Thursday that the Freedom of Information Commission states any member of the public has the right to record video and audio of public meetings “as long as they are not disruptive.”

“The Freedom of Information Commission will always err on the side of openness,” Branse said. “If you’re going to refuse someone based on being disruptive, they’d better be really disruptive.”

Branse noted that he has never seen a person filming a meeting that he would consider to be disruptive, and added that even if someone were walking around with a camera, the commission would likely not consider that to be disruptive either.

Town Councilman Michael Winkler agreed, saying in a Saturday email to town officials that the policy “will be struck down by the Freedom of Information Commission if passed at Tuesday’s meeting and enforced.”

No commission members could be reached for comment today.

Under the new policy, cameras also would be prohibited from being set up adjacent to or behind the table for committee members.

But Winkler insists the only way to film the faces of residents who speak at public hearings is to position a camera behind or at the table.

Champagne, however, says the policy has already been vetted by the Freedom of Information Commission.

In a Sunday email from Champagne to the council, Champagne said, “the policy passed was brought to the freedom of information commission and was considered a very good policy.”

He reiterated today that the town has been in contact with the Commission, and he disagrees with Branse’s statements.

“It’s been cleared through the FOI Commission,” Champagne said. “We covered all our bases on this.”

The meetings are broadcast live on television, but Winkler calls into question the quality of the video and Champagne’s desire to provide the best quality.

“For the last few years, the video has been unwatchable,” Winkler said. “In my opinion, the mayor has always been hostile to the coverage of council meetings.”

Winkler said he had a cameraman lined up to record meetings, but the administration “sent him packing” because “the administration didn’t really want them broadcast.”

“I think the public should see what’s happening,” Winkler said.

Champagne admitted there have been issues in the past with the live feed, but those resulted from the cable company’s equipment malfunctions, not the town’s, and that those problems have been solved.

“Our feed is considerably better right now,” he said, noting the town is in the process of updating its equipment.

The proposed policy was developed in response to complaints from members of the town’s commissions about disruptive practices regarding filming meetings, and that Winkler is the sole reason for the complaints, Champagne said.

He said the policy is designed to make sure fire lanes are cleared and commission members, who are volunteers, are not made to feel uncomfortable during meetings.

“We’re not trying to stop people from videotaping,” he said. “We’re stopping people from interfering with the meeting.”

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January 28th, 2016

Amerbelle’s largest building, the brick building along Grove street, would be demolished under a four million dollar plan funded by the State of Connecticut and administered by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Dam Safety Unit.

Use the link below for a map showing which buildings will be demolished.

AMERBELLE SITE – Demo Bldgs – current program

 

January 22nd, 2016

The Town produces the televised Council meetings.  For three years the shows have had a green cast, wavy lines running from top to bottom, poor audio and the Democrats on both ends are cut off.  Two years ago the Council approved money to fix the problems but the Mayor has done nothing.
This week, a CVC crew began filming the meetings. You can see their work at https://youtu.be/EbNIXmKuOCA.

 

January 16th, 2016

Richard Cioto spoke on blight in Vernon.

Joe Tarzi spoke on graffiti in Vernon.

Karl Prewo and David Forrest spoke on the Bolton Lakes.

Mike Winkler and Bill Campbell were reappointed to the Human Services Advisory Commission.

Michael J. Tormey was appointed to the Human Services Advisory Commission.

Jeff Adamson was appointed to the Economic Development Commission.

John K. Anderson was appointed Special Constable.

Various small tax refunds and fund transfers were approved.

The process to repair Walker Reservoir Dam was initiated.

 

December 12th, 2015

John Diorio, CEO of First Alliance Lending, told the members of Vernon’s Town Council that he would be rehabbing Amerbelle Mills in lieu of his plan to redevelop Downtown Rockville.  This occurred six months ago but was not widely reported.

There are disagreements over why the Rockville project fell through.  A town official says the current property owners wouldn’t sell.  At least one of the property owners says the landlords were all willing to sell.  A state official says that state government could not provide the large sum of money it would take to make the enormous project economically feasible.

 

November 26th, 2015

These are links to the agendas and supporting documentation that Council members receive on the Friday before the Tuesday meetings.

Town Council Packet for 1/19/2016

Town-Council Packet for 12/15/2015

Town Council Packet for 12/1/2015

The Mayor never posts on-line what he sends to town councilors.  Republicans decide in private caucuses how they are going to vote so there is not much public debate.  Without the information in these packets, the public can’t know wht  has been decided.

 

October 2nd, 2015

Representative Joe Courtney passing out federal citations honoring eighteen military service veterans who reside at Fox Hill Center in Vernon.

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August 15th, 2015

On Saturday, August 15th, a Democratic fundraiser was held at U.S. Representative Joseph Courtney’s home in Vernon, CT.  Our thanks to Joe, Audrey and Elizabeth Courtney and Jennifer Holt for making this event possible.

From left to right, Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, U.S. Representative Joe Courtney, Mayoral candidate Teri-Lynn Rogers, Town Council candidate Mike Winkler, State Representative Claire Janowski and Board of Education candidate Laurie Bajorek.

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June 20th, 2015

Two letters to the editor of the Journal Inquirer have harshly criticized Representative Claire Janowski for voting for the state budget.

Another letter to the editor explained why Representative Janowski’s actions were good for Vernon.

ClaireLTTE6061615

 

June 9th, 2015

To see the Journal inquirer article use this link:  Waste