UNION CITY – Mayor Brian Stack and the Union City Board of Commissioners made last minute changes to a controversial ordinance regarding the videotaping of public meetings Tuesday night before adopting it by a unanimous vote.
The ordinance, which previously would have required anyone wishing to videotape public meetings to provide prior written notice and an unedited copy of their footage to the city clerk’s office, raised eyebrows in recent weeks due to questions about whether it violated First Amendment rights.
But, following comments from city residents, Stack proposed an amendment to the ordinance, striking out the requirements to provide prior notice and an unedited tape.
Thus, the only major change to the town’s existing resolution regarding guidelines to public meetings, which was adopted a few years ago, stipulates that all videotaping equipment must be unobtrusive and situated at the back of the room.
After the meeting, Stack, who introduced the ordinance on Jan. 15, said that he felt compelled to amend the requirements in order to ensure democratic ideals.
“You know, even though there are people who videotape these meetings for their own political purposes, I still want to ensure that we are protecting democracy in Union City,” he said.
Critics of Stack, including the Union City Concerned Citizens Group (UCCCG), had previously argued that the ordinance infringed upon their right to free speech. However, Stack said that it was simply meant to maintain order at the meetings, a sentiment echoed by many residents who expressed annoyance at the various cameras typically seen at public meetings.
Stack also said that he felt the ordinance was too strict on citizens who wished to videotape meetings for their own purposes.
“If we have a student come who needs to videotape a meeting for a project or something like that, I don’t want to make it a big deal for them to have to do that,” he said.