Charlotte City Council public forum
Charlotte City Council no longer televises the public comment portion of its meetings.

Charlotte City Council no longer televises the public forum portion of its meetings, where residents can bring issues to council members. It voted to cease the practice after a contentious forum following the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.

In October, it voted to bring the forum back into the main chamber, out from a separate and smaller room, but upheld the decision to keep the cameras turned off during that portion of its otherwise televised meetings.

The move has brought about much debate, and gained more attention still when Councilmember Braxton Winston made a point by livestreaming the forum himself from the dais on Dec. 11. 

The City Council is set to revisit the issue at its Jan. 8 business meeting, after Winston declared his intention to push for a vote during that night’s dinner meeting.

In the lead up, I have heard many more arguing in favor of televising the forum than against, and our poll shows more support than opposition at time of writing (see below). That said, I have seen quite a few arguments opposed to bringing the cameras back for the public comment. Frankly, so far I have found all of them lacking.

Charlotte NC
Click to Shop Charlotte Art, Shirts & More!

Arguments against televising the public forum & their rebuttals

Speakers were getting off topic.

The stated purpose of the forum is for citizens to bring forward their concerns on any issue. So how, then, would it even be possible to be off topic? This is the argument put forward by City Council itself, through Kenny Smith, who has since left following his unsuccessful bid to become mayor. For the most part, City Council doesn’t like to talk about it. Perhaps because they know this argument is weak. 

As for the forum following the Scott shooting, the topic of police brutality is squarely within reason, as City Council oversees the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. The City Council, minus then-Mayor Jennifer Roberts, even issued a letter supporting CMPD Chief Kerr Putney in the aftermath of Scott’s death and the protests that followed. Protests that were met, it must be stated, by a heavily armed and aggressive police force. 

Speakers used obscenities. Is that even allowed?

City Council meetings air on the government channel and website, over which the FCC has no control.

While I don’t blame City Council members for taking offense at the aggressive language and, at times, direct threats hurled at them that night, it bears keeping in mind what those individuals were so upset about in the first place. At issue was a man’s death, and the broader concern of police brutality in this country against the African American community. When one talks about an obscene situation, sometimes an obscenity is well-placed, and sometimes an objection to it is a dodge meant to shutdown the underlying argument.

Meetings are fully transparent, because you can attend and the notes are posted online.

Not everyone can physically get to those meetings, let alone consistently. That’s why the meetings are televised in the first place.

As for the notes posted online for the forum, they simply state who spoke and on what topic, not what was said. While the city is under no obligation to televise the public forum, or their meetings in general, choosing to do so and then taking it back is not a good look.

Especially when you throw around the word “transparency” almost as much as the phrase “New South.” Put up or shut up, Charlotte. We’re watching, even if you’ve got your cameras turned off. 

Let us know where you stand on the issue by voting in our poll and in the comments below.

[poll id=94]

Jeff Taylor / Social Media Editor

Jeff Taylor is a journalist and artist. In addition to QNotes, his work has appeared in publications such The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inside Lacrosse, and McSweeney’s Internet...