I attended the Friends of Kate Sessions meeting at the Soledad Club on May 18 after receiving an email invitation. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 5:00 p.m., but the gates were locked and the parking lot vacant until approximately 5:30. This community meeting, held the third Tuesday of each month, addresses community, crime, and quality-of-life issues in the Kate Sessions Park neighborhood.
I’d attended with the intention of giving my “Friends” an opportunity to share their side of the story regarding the 24-hour alcohol-ban proposal, having been informed that board member Richard Kiser felt my previous issue-related article, “Wake Up, Speak Up,” was a bit “one-sided.” But, things did not go as I’d hoped.
As I took a seat, an elderly female board member, who'd been asking community members to sign in, approached me with clipboard in hand. “Will you please sign in?” she asked. “Do I have to?” I asked. After an awkward pause, she said, “Well, no, but we really like you to.” “No, thank you. I’ll pass,” I said.
Then, board member Richard Kiser leaned back in his chair, spread his arms wide, and began to address me before the meeting began. At one point he introduced me as “Carolyn…the writer notorious for changing the facts” and referenced my “Wake Up, Speak Up” article. Kiser didn’t identify any fact(s) I’d “changed” in that piece or any other article. He then added, “She’s also the second signature on the online petition opposing the 24-hour Kate Sessions Ban.” (To view the petition click here.)
“You can’t videotape people if they don’t want to be videotaped,” said a board member. “In a public meeting?” I asked. “This is a board meeting,” said a member. “That’s it. Everybody quiet,” said Kiser, making a silencing gesture with his arm. “Is it illegal to videotape at a public meeting?” I asked. “Yes, it is, unless you have authorization…you can’t do it,” said a board member. “I think we can confiscate your camera. Would you like us to?” “What is the reason for doing this, by the way?” said another.
“I’m a stringer for the news. I’m a stringer — I write, I report.” “Do you have your credentials with you?” asked a board member, despite the fact that my identity had been established by Kiser. When I offered my driver’s license as identification, board members’ responses overlapped: “No,” and “Sorry, that doesn’t fulfill the obligations…” “What part of this don’t you get?” said Kiser more than once and, “We have a policy of no cameras in the building.” “We have our board meetings every third Tuesday of the month. It’s the third Tuesday of the month, and we’re requesting you do not videotape,” said a female board member who then phoned the police. When I asked if this was the Friends of Kate Sessions meeting, a board member responded, "This is City Beautiful of San Diego."
I managed to record a few minutes of these interactions before I obliged the board’s request for me to leave the meeting. I then phoned the police to make sure they were coming, as I wanted to share my experience with them.
“The way [Kiser] came across was very hateful from the moment he opened his mouth,” said an attendee. “It’s not something one would ever expect from a board at a public meeting. It was vicious...scary, really.”
As I was exiting, a board member pointed to the woman who attended the meeting with me (who hadn’t said a word, snapped a photo, or recorded video) and said, “She’s with her. She has to leave, too.” And, so, she did.
“These people are out of control,” said a community member. “Power-hungry, self-appointed volunteers who don’t want the public knowing…how they push things through to suit their own agenda. This has been going on for years. Good for you for exposing it.”
I explained what had happened to the SDPD upon their arrival. “It’s a civil issue,” an officer told me. “Not much we can do. If you feel your civil rights have been violated, you should contact an attorney. But, that doesn’t change the outcome today.”
The two officers disappeared down the cement stairway to speak with the Friends board while I waited in the parking lot. When the officers returned, they shared the Friends’ statements with me. “They said this is a private meeting…that it wasn’t noticed anywhere. It wasn’t open to the public. The public wasn’t invited.”
To watch a video from the meeting click here.