Sunday, September 27, 2009

Transparency, anyone

Local congresscritter Baron Hill has decided that no-one can tape his town hall meetings. Ostensibly this is so that highly edited versions of the events don't end up on YouTube, and embarrass the good congressman.

Recently, a couple of students from Indiana University were told to stop taping at a town hall meeting Congressman Hill was holding, even though they apparently had cleared their activities with Hill's assistants prior to the meeting.

Congressman Hill says it's his right to not be videotaped, and if he was just any other citizen, I'd say he was right. He does have the right to demand to not be taped in purely personal settings, such as when he is out with his family or such.

But when he's acting as a representative of the people and holding a public meeting with his constituents, he has no right to privacy. His first amendment rights as a citizen are trumped by the right of his constituents to know where he stands on issues, even if they can't make it to the meetings. They need to know not only his opinions on the issues, but also how he and his supporters treat those who disagree with him.

They could even help him out. If dissenters act unreasonably at his meeting, then a video of their conduct could be beneficial when justifying ejecting them.

If Congressman Hill is worried that his words might be taken out of context, he should tape the meeting himself and be able to release the full, unedited video and shut down anyone trying to pull a fast one.

Disclaimer: I don't live in Indiana, and I only know about Baron Hill because his district uses the same media outlets as Louisville, and he and his opponent in the last couple of elections made it nasty early in the campaign.

Come on, Congressman, a little sunlight in your meetings will go a long way in getting people to trust your word without a lot of effort on your part. Let your constituents make tapes of their meetings with you so that disputes don't come down to a he-said-she-said argument.

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