Minneapolis city officials said Thursday that they will once again educate members of an advisory committee for the Upper Harbor Terminal redevelopment on the state’s Open Meeting Law, a day after they told reporters not to record or photograph at a public meeting.
The committee was formed and appointed by the City Council last year to guide the revitalization of 48 acres of riverfront in north Minneapolis. It has held several meetings over the past year that have been open to the public under state law and the committee’s own bylaws.
Reporters with MPR News and MinnPost who were at a committee meeting Wednesday at a University of Minnesota building on the North Side were told by members not to record or photograph, prompting one of them to leave to keep the situation from escalating. The reporters had argued they were within their rights to record the meeting.
A reporter for the Star Tribune was also at the meeting but not inside the room during the confrontation.
Council Member Phillipe Cunningham, who represents north Minneapolis neighborhoods and was at the meeting, said Thursday that committee members would be reinformed that members of the public are able to record their meetings.
In an e-mail to committee members Thursday, Erik Hansen, the city’s director of economic policy and development, reiterated that point.
“The [committee] cannot make demands for anyone to cease, cannot make them get permission in advance to film/record, and the body has no basis upon which to close the meeting,” he said. “Removing yourself from the committee is the only option if you do not wish to comply with these laws.”
City Clerk Casey Carl said Thursday that he would attend future committee meetings.
When asked about Wednesday’s incident, Mayor Jacob Frey said: “There’s no ambiguity. The Open Meeting Law is clear: Press should be allowed in. Period.”
Star Tribune Managing Editor Suki Dardarian said she was disappointed with the incident Wednesday but pleased to see the city take action.
“It’s very gratifying to hear that the city is recommitting to open meetings and being more inclusive with the public in their meetings,” she said. “Our intention in covering these meetings is to include more people in the process.”
Committee members had raised concerns with journalists taking video at previous meetings, including with news station Fox 9 last year. Near the end of Wednesday’s meeting, a chairperson of the committee said reporters would be asked to identify themselves and to refrain from taking photos of members who objected.
“The underlying intention is just the courtesy of being able to know who is there and to be able to give consent to having their photo and video taken,” Cunningham said. “But also, we as a city recognize that there can be no hard ‘No, you can’t do that.’ ”
Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753