Asheville City Council preview: Sept. 8 meeting

At its Sept. 8 meeting, Asheville City Council will discuss options for offering contracts to local companies with regards to upcoming stimulus-package projects. The contract-bidding process is governed by state and federal law, but a city staff report suggests that there are resources to assist local companies in making the cut.

Also, two weeks after deciding to create four new early voting locations for the upcoming general election in November, Council will vote on the necessary $60,000 budget amendment to pay for the venues.

In other unfinished business, the Reid Center renovation, which took a financial hit with the recent loss of grant funding, is back on the table. Council will hear a presentation on the status of the project and consider whether to go back to the drawing board on the redesign.

And new language governing Council-appointed boards and commissions will be discussed, including a required oath of office for some board members and a provision that meetings meet open-meeting and notification rules. But it is unclear if the new regulations will apply to the URTV Board of Directors, to which Council is once again considering nominees. Council appoints two members to that board, a process that has been delayed since July.

Council will meet Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 5 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall. Click here for the complete agenda.

— Brian Postelle, staff writer


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7 thoughts on “Asheville City Council preview: Sept. 8 meeting

  1. But it is unclear if the new regulations will apply to the URTV Board of Directors, to which Council is once again considering nominees.

    If it is not applicable to URTV, then what have the numerous amendments to the original management agreement been about and /or for? When this first came up in the fall of ’06, Bob Oast said “it’s public access, for cryin’
    out loud”
    Reprint of his complete letter is below.

    There have been numerous amendments, and the current at will management and certain hand picked board members @ URTV are STILL fighting this. Ya gotta wonder why?????
    From: Bob Oast
    To: Robin Cape
    Sent: Monday, October 23, 2006 12:08 PM
    Subject: URTV

    Dear Robin:

    I have looked through our agreement with URTV, and in URTV’s articles of
    incorporation. I find nothing in there that requires that their meetings
    be open to the public, or otherwise conducted in accordance with the
    Open Meetings law. They are not a “public body” that is explicitly
    subject to the law. That does not mean that the law does not apply to
    them, however.

    It is my understanding that URTV operates substantially with public
    money (cable subscriber paid PEG funds allocated by the City and
    County). Its function is the management of a URTV facility for the
    public access station. The equipment and space it uses is paid for with
    public (PEG) money as well. A North Carolina Court of Appeals case, News
    and Observer Publishing Co. v. Wake County Hospital Systems, Inc., 55 NC
    App. 1(1981), held that a non-profit agency contracting with a county to
    operate a public hospital is subject to the Public Records law. The main
    factor that led the Court to that conclusion was that the non-profit
    operated largely with public money; clearly that is occurring here.
    Other factors might be the extent to which the non-profit agency is
    controlled by the government with it contracts or the extent to which it
    performs a governmental function. It appears that the City and County
    exercise some degree of control over URTV’s operations. While TV might
    not by itself be a governmental function, a strong argument could be
    made that public access TV is by definition governmental.

    Even though the Wake County case involved public records and not open
    meetings, I think that the same arguments could be made. On this basis,
    I think that URTV is subject to the Open Meetings law. This means that
    the meetings are required to be open (except for legally-permitted
    closed sessions). This further means that “any person may photograph,
    film, tape-record, or otherwise reproduce any part of a meeting required
    to be open.” NCGS 143-318.6.

    Since the County has some involvement with URTV as well, I’d want to
    review my opinion with their lawyer, but the law is pretty clear and I
    don’t think there will be any disagreement. I’ll try to do that today.

    Of course, I think your reasoning that “it’s public access, for cryin’
    out loud” makes the most sense.

    I hope that this is responsive to your question; if you need any further
    information or need me to address the URTV board, please let me know.

    Bob Oast
    City Attorney

    Asheville City Council
    Regular Meeting – January 9, 2007 – 5:00 p.m.
    City Hall Building
    Council Chamber


    II Consent Agenda:

    F. Resolution amending the Memorandum of Agreement with URTV


    1. That this Board does hereby amend the Management Agreement with URTV, Inc. as

    Section 1. Scope of Services L. URTV Board of Directors Meetings. The URTV Board
    of Directors will comply with the North Carolina
    Open Meetings Law, set forth in Article 33C of the North Carolina General
    Statutes Section 143-318.10 et. seq.

    e URTV Board
    of Directors will comply with the North Carolina
    Open Meetings Law, set forth in Article 33C of the North Carolina General
    Statutes Section 143-318.10 et. seq.

  2. URTV was set up rather badly (please note that no one who set up URTV is involved with it currently.) If URTV had been set up like other, successful & shining examples of public access television, such as the stations in NYC, or (yes) Austin, there would be much less opportunity for government interference, and the PEG fees would not have to go through city council the way they do now, to be threatened every time some grandstanding or weak-willed city council member decides to have a hissy-fit. But URTV is set up the way it is, and we have to deal with it.
    Public Access is a strange beast. It is not government controlled (to call it government-funded requires a rather tortured definition of that phrase.) It is not sponsored controlled. It is not controlled by public opinion. The only people who get to control what goes on the air are the individual producers. That is what the “public” part means- any member of the public, any Joe or Jane Schmoe, can come in off the street, and get whatever they want off their chests. It is unique in all the forums of Asheville in having no agenda, and no censoring other than when you can show things (not if you can show things) and a vague admonition to not scare the horses too badly. Given the limitations of an increasingly litigious & thin-skinned America, URTV is as close of a champion that the 1st Amendment (remember that one?) is going to get in Asheville.
    Are the results often amateurish? Yes. Are the results boring to most, offensive to some? Yes. But that is precisely the reason URTV is so important. People of Asheville, you have the right to be amateurish. No one has the right to shut you up if don’t use fancy words, or talk with the right accent. People of Asheville, you have the right to be boring. No one has the right to shut you up if they don’t find your information and passion relevant to their narrow little lives. And finally, people of Asheville, you have the right to be offensive. No one has the right to shut you up if they think what you’re saying is subversive, immoral, socialistic, capitalistic, politically incorrect, or any other form of doubleplus crimethink. And as long as cable companies and other telecoms cut monopoly deals with State and local governments, you have the right to be all that on television.
    Asheville, what you must understand about all the shrill little snipers attacking URTV (who have only grown increasingly shrill this last year) is that they want to take all this away. Some want to make a quick buck by commercializing it, making URTV a tool for the rich and timid, like virtually the rest of television is. Some want to make it “decent”; The occasional objectionable image or sound you can turn off, or petty little censors blowing their noses on the Bill of Rights- which is the greater indecency? Finally, others want to make it “responsible”- as in making it the responsibility of the government, and government controlled. From there its a quick jump to funding getting cut every time the police chief needs a new nameplate on his desk, more censor boards, plus a move to becoming more “socially responsible”, which means the suppression of dissent.
    Asheville, they are not here to save URTV, they are here to destroy it, to rip out its heart, each for their own selfish & short-sighted motives. Ultimately, you, the people of Asheville, are the only ones who can prevent that. Please, for the sake of your town, for the sake of the 1st Amendment, do not let them destroy URTV.

  3. AvlResident

    “. . .any Joe or Jane Schmoe, can come in off the street, and get whatever they want off their chests.. .”

    Internet Blogs and YouTube serve that function well nowadays and were not as prevalent, if even in existence, when public access televisions were created. Blogs and the Internet do not require any public funds. Time to let public access television die its natural death?

  4. A) We’re not talking about the telegraph, we’re talking about television. While its days may be numbered, there’s still a few decades left in the old medium yet. And the prevalence of one medium has little bearing on the utility of another. After, zines were much more prevalent back when Public Access was beginning, and that didn’t lessen the desire or the need for publicly accessible television.
    B) Blogs may not use public funds, but they do use corporate funds. While normally that’s not a problem, it could very well be in the future. Net Neutrality, anyone?
    C) Public Access station came into being to counter the de facto monopoly status that local governments give cable companies. That’s what PEG fees essentially are: kickbacks for the cable company monopoly. Now, if you want to have a conversation about a total and real free market in telecommunication, where anyone can set up their own mom-and-pop TV or high-speed ISP (or combination thereof) and offer television with the need for franchise or license, that’s a conversation I would like to have. But until then, I think we need URTV.

  5. Vocal Local

    To heck with public access. What’s going on with the Reid Center scam. Why isn’t this paper doing its job reporting about the $25,000 in donations that seems to have mysteriously disappeared? Why isn’t anyone reporting on the outright lies being delivered to the public by city council and the parks department about the real costs to renovate the existing facility?

    Why does this paper and others just roll over in the wake of criminal incompetence by the city? They’re about to borrow money to build their shiny little theatre three blocks from a perfectly good theatre that they can make first class for a fraction of the price. Then they’ll have two buildings to run while they fail to maintain either of them. Before this council of fools puts the city in hock for their Reid Center scam, maybe they should pay for the multimillion dollar repairs to their own city hall. What’s the local media got to say about any of that? Shall we assume nothing as usual?

  6. Matt Howard

    “Internet Blogs and YouTube serve that function well nowadays and were not as prevalent, if even in existence, when public access televisions were created.”

    Yeah, but it so damn cool seeing yourself on TV.

  7. R,Bernier

    Ummmm – “dam cool seeing yourself on tv” glad to hear that is somthing you like Matt. Now, lets get all the smiling faces on public access when you have board meetings now!!

    Like Jerry Rice says, if you are going to run a tv (like station) then act like a tv station.

    Go to the 4min mark to hear Mr.Rice remarks.

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