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Public comment cut out of BOC meeting broadcast
A screen shot of the message that is shown in place of Josie Dean's comments during the public comment period at the Aug. 13, 2013 Board of Commissioners meeting.

More meetings on county channel? (July 8, 2013)

Whose channel is it anyway?  A look inside Channel 23 (Aug. 19, 2012)


Public Comments from Josie Dean at the Aug. 13 BOC meeting (some words could not be heard):

"I heard a lot of meetings had been canceled, not just the water (meetings), but a lot of meetings had been canceled because we don’t have nothing to talk about. They cancel our meetings. I wish our commissioners would do their homework, not just have Van Ness do her homework. I think sometimes they come up there, their heads cocked.  When you head cocked… I think she can… they could get up there and do everything they say… Heck, I’m not going to sit up here and don’t do their homework and everything Van Ness vote for, we vote for. It don’t work like that. Sometimes when people can’t have their way arguing and stuff. Sometimes you’ve got to do your homework. Sometimes if people don’t want who you want, they go along with you, but if they don’t go along with who Van Ness wants, she’s going to raise hell. It ain’t right. You’ve got to do your homework. Everybody she wants may not be what’s good for the county. Sometimes we want to fix it, sometimes we don’t want nobody there. Sometimes we’ve got a lot of educated fools. Sometimes we’ve got a lot of people that’s got all this education and can’t get them to do nothing. Because they may know everything. They may go there not go not because they’re wrong, just because they… These people can’t keep up with everything you’ve got. They put a train in there, it make sure it goes (can’t hear). We got foolishness. I’ve got to thank the president. These people putting in jail for drugs. Just for marijuana. Marijuana… the drug they’re dealing with is crazy. People are retardated. People are bipolar. Black people are supposed to smoke marijuana. Legally. Our brain don’t fight like… Black people brain has to smoke.  We can’t drink. We can’t do all that chemical stuff. When they give black people chemical stuff, that’s why we’re going crazy. When you give black people marijuana, all they can do is laugh and sit down. I ain’t seen nobody go smoke marijuana by self and go (can’t hear) and stuff. A lot of times you got all these people in jail for marijuana instead of doing all these bad crimes. You can’t fit the regular criminals in there because they got all these lucrative people in there.  They told them, look. It aint (can’t hear). People have bought all these years. You could buy a jail bed and put everybody you want in jail and they’ll do it for you just to make sure you have room. Still, understand, these people ain’t doing them a pity party. They ain’t doing nothing so crazy. Got more retarded people out here are going wild and you ain’t got nowhere to put them. Bush and them stopped that. Reagan and them stopped that. Got all these crazy people running in our neighborhood. You got a preschool. Van Ness you had a lot about me having a prayer meeting at our church this Thursday. So y’all be blessed. Stop let Van Ness push y’all around."

A Rockdale County resident is questioning why her comments were cut out of the broadcast of the Aug. 13 Board of Commissioners meeting in what appears to be a shift in policy for Channel 23 broadcasts.

During the public comments of Tuesday's meeting, Josie Dean, a regular attendee and founder of the Rockdale County Think Tank, was the only person to sign up to speak.

In her comments, she gave her opinion on the discussion Commission Chairman Richard Oden and Commissioner JaNice Van Ness had just finished about a possible appointment to the Water and Sewerage Authority Board, which was eventually deferred.

Dean, a black woman, also gave her opinion on the use of marijuana by black people, as opposed to other types of drugs, and commented on the number of people in jail due to marijuana. (see the full transcript of her comments to the left).

"Black people are supposed to smoke marijuana... Black people brain has to smoke. We can't drink. We can't do all that chemical stuff. When they give black people chemical stuff, that's why we're going crazy. When you give black people marijuana, all they can do is laugh and sit down," she said.

The comments were cut out of the broadcast of the meeting with a message that stated "This public comment has been removed due to inappropriate content." (The Aug. 13 meeting broadcast can be viewed at the county's Vimeo channel at )

However Dean's comments did not fall into the stated forbidden categories that speakers are warned against before each public comment time. County Clerk Jennifer Rutledge warns speakers, "Comments relative to any issues going through the public hearing process, matters in active litigation, political campaigning, or partisan politics will not be heard in this meeting. Speakers are to address the Chairman, not each other or the audience, and are expected to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. The use of abusive or profane language shall not be allowed. No debate or argument between speakers and/or members of the audience shall be permitted."

When asked via email about who or what determines whether meeting content is cut from meeting broadcasts on Channel 23, Community Affairs Director Tonya Parker said, "Rarely are portions of county meetings we tape edited except when due to technical difficulties, such as with sound involving a microphone during the course of a meeting, or in a circumstance such as this. Then, much like this situation, we simply put some type of notation on the video. In prior administrations this department has recommended that inappropriate comments spoken in a public meeting be removed.

"In the year and a half that I've been with the county in this role, this is the first time I've had video edited due to these circumstances. Of course, when situations like this come up I'm one who likes to ensure the issue continues to be examined for any future lessons learned and ways to best work with our citizens."

However, in a July 2012 Rockdale News article in about Channel 23, when asked whether content was cut out of public meeting broadcasts, Parker said there was no editing.

"(The meetings and public comments) can get caustic, but that is not for us to edit," she said in July 2012. "From the time they call the meeting to the time they close the meeting, we film."

Even when there are executive sessions and long pauses, the meetings are left as is so there will be no question, she said last year.

"My understanding is that's always been the policy. It's definitely been the practice since I've been here," she said.

The latest franchise agreement between Rockdale County and AT&T/Comcast, which runs June 2002 until June 21, 2014, specifies the county has editorial control over the content of the channel, as long as it falls within specified guidelines.

The franchise agreement spells out specific proportions of programming the county has to maintain in order to keep the channel. Among the requirements, the channel must air qualified Public Educational Governmental programming at least 80 percent of the time during 8 a.m. - 10 p.m. Monday to Friday. Repeat programs can only make up 25 percent of the qualified programming, programs that are not locally produced nor about the local area can only make up to 50 percent of the programming, and video bulletins should not be more than 16 percent of the qualified programming.

In that agreement, the county received a one-time grant of $50,000 to go toward capital expenditures for setting up the channel. In return, the cable company had access to the county's right-of-ways.