By Carol Tannenhauser
There is an important Community Board (CB) 7 meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. You can register to attend here.
WSR previewed the main event yesterday — the upcoming vote on the fate of West Park Presbyterian Church. Click on the link for details and ways to register your opinion.
But there’s another item of interest on the agenda, easily overlooked, that has raised questions about freedom of speech and the press. It centers on an amendment to the board’s bylaws, which, if approved, would require board members to notify the board chair about any contacts they have with the press.
“This abridge[s] board members’ free speech rights,” said Ken Coughlin, a board member. “They should be free to speak to anyone they wish to about board matters without having to tell someone they are doing it. We would never expect a City Council member or a member of Congress to inform their speaker every time they talked to the media. Community board members should be no different.”
The Rag asked Mark Levine, Manhattan borough president, who appoints community board members, to comment on the proposal. But his press secretary said, “We are going to hold off from making comments about this…until after tonight’s vote,” he said.
Board Chair Steven Brown reserved the same right, but added, “Based on the last draft I read, I do not see anything that is stopping free speech or allowing board members to speak to the press.”
This seemingly arcane issue, which follows the church vote on the agenda, has the potential to turn rancorous, as it did in the task force meetings that preceded it.
If you have never been to a community board meeting, this is a good place to start.