Su Lum: Slumming
August 5, 2009
I was half-watching the live City Council meeting on GrassRoots TV (Monday, July 27) when a couple of attention-getting events occurred. The subject at hand was an ordinance to alter some of the affordable housing regulations, one of which was to allow retired owners to rent out their affordable units to qualified employees, at established affordable rates, for periods up to six months – perhaps an issue for a later column.
When the time came for public comment, Elizabeth Milias, one of the two Red Ants, began a presentation which appeared to be in opposition but which was cut short with the notice that the viewers should stand by because GrassRoots was in the process of changing tapes.
The changing of the tapes seems to last forever, and to occur at the most crucial moments, and this was no exception. When the coverage finally resumed, Milias’ presentation was over, and the council had moved on to discussion.
Let me insert here that I love GrassRoots and LOVE their coverage of public meetings – I only wish they would broadcast Planning and Zoning meetings and the upcoming Lift 1A task force meetings as well.
Anyway, whatever Elizabeth Milias said was lost to the viewing public due to the changing of the tape. When the coverage resumed, the council was discussing the ordinance, and Mick Ireland made a reference to Milias’ presentation (which we hadn’t heard), to which she took umbrage, and an Incident occurred.
The Red Ants are unrelenting in their demands for “civility” from the council, so it got my undivided attention when Elizabeth Milias began shouting at Mick from the back row. Whoa! She was yelling, Mick was trying to silence her, trying to be “civil” but clearly pissed (anyone who watches council meetings knows that Mick hates it when people speak out of turn). It was a jaw-dropping moment.
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The next night, the council meeting was repeated on GrassRoots, and I not only sat down to watch it again but put a tape in my old VCR to record it.
Imagine my surprise when, following the “stand by, we’re changing tapes” hiatus when Milias was making her presentation, the program resumed at a point well past the Milias outburst, going along as if the Incident had never occurred!
Double whoa! If I were into conspiracy theories, it didn’t get much better than this. On whose authority was that Incident segment cut? Was it coincidence that the presentation was also truncated by the changing of the tapes at the critical moment?
By the time I met with John Masters at 10 the next morning (it was too complicated to try to explain on the phone), he had already heard rumblings about it but had no idea why it had happened. He brought in Mike, who had taped the meeting and who recalled it all exactly (“Then she started screaming …”) and he thought that the event AND the whole presentation were on the tape. He remembered having some trouble during and after the tape change, and that trouble, they later concluded, was the explanation for the omissions.
No conspiracy, no threats, bribes or payoffs, just technical difficulties at an unfortunate time.
To add another note of technical weirdness, if you watch that council meeting online (www.aspenpitkin.com) you still can’t hear the presentation, due to the changing of the tapes, but the outburst is on there loud and clear just as it was when I watched it live.
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