Thursday, November 17, 2011
Trip the light fantastic
So in addition to the usually screw ups--PowerPoint snafus and sound system screeches--two hours into Town Meeting, after I had already taken 35 photos (equally divided between pro and con speakers) from my front row seated position which is designated for media, after Mary Streeter trudged to the microphone 40 feet from me, Molly Turner interrupted with a "point of order," claiming I was distracting speakers (of course she meant those on her side who opposed the article) by "flashing" in their faces.
Moderator Harrison Gregg, who I had already photographed three times, seemed confused and asked her what she was talking about. Obviously I was not a distraction to him, even though seated almost directly in front of his podium.
And Ms. Streeter certainly did not seem to notice, as she was juggling papers and asked about removing the microphone. I was taking two photos of every speaker and you can barely notice the first flash (the lighting is lousy in the auditorium and does require a flash for usable photos) and then the second and final one a full 24 seconds later.
He then flippantly bans my flash. Now yeah, I could have done what Luke Gelinas did with the South Hadley School Committee and get arrested and then suit for a First Amendment violation. But I figured a major disruption could cost votes as most people know I favored passage of the Form Based Zoning article.
That night before Town Meeting started, the Moderator announced that a member wished to enact a rule to limit all speakers to no more than five minutes. But he said since town meeting had not formerly adopted such a rule, he could not suddenly try to enforce it now.
Last spring the Town Meeting Coordinating Committee briefly discussed the use of flash photography and photographers moving about on the floor of town meeting potentially distracting or "intimidating" speakers--but nothing ever came of it. No enforceable rule enacted.
I guess that makes me and my flash...special.