Middleborough officials have decided to keep the media far, far away from tomorrow’s fiasco of a town meeting, which is expected to draw as many as 10,000 people to the high school. Here is the complete text of a media advisory issued yesterday by the Middleborough Police Department:
July 26, 2007
Middleborough Police Department
Attn: Lt. David Mackiewicz
Fax Number: (508) 947-1009
Middleborough Special Town Meeting – Casino Decision
On, Saturday July 28, 2007 at 11:00 a.m. the town of Middleborough will be conducting a Special Town Meeting at the Middleborough High School at 71 East Grove Street in Middleborough (Route 28). The purpose of the meeting is to determine the residents’ position regarding the recently negotiated Wampanoag Casino agreement.
To ensure the event receives proper media coverage and only registered voters are allowed to vote specific control measures will be in effect for all media outlets attending the event.
1. Venue: The Town of Middleborough will be conducting a Special Town Meeting for the purpose of deciding the residents’ position regarding the recently negotiated Wampanoag Casino agreement.
2. The meeting will occur at the Middleborough High School on Rt. 28, at 71 East Gove Street, Middleborough, Ma.
3. The meeting area will be restricted to only Middleborough registered voters. Invited guests will be authorized only as specified by the Town Moderator.
4. Media personnel will be authorized access to view the event from a designated media area.
5. Application for Media Parking Passes: Fax all requests for media vehicle parking passes to the Middleborough Police Department, 508-947-1009, Attn: Lt. David Mackiewicz NOT LATER THAN 3:00 PM on FRIDAY, July 27, 2007. Space is limited and Media Parking Passes will be limited to two passes per media outlet. Media Parking Passes will be returned by fax to your media outlet and must be presented to gain access to the designated media area.
6. Media will be required to arrive between 06:00 AM and 07:30 AM on Saturday, July 28, 2007. No new media personnel will be allowed entrance after 7:30 AM on Saturday, July 28.
7. Voting residents will begin arriving at 08:00 AM. Media will be allowed an interview area where they can conduct interviews with voting residents inside the designated media area between 08:00 AM and the start of the meeting. The meeting will begin at 11:00 AM.
8. A MALT box [“a piece of equipment that allows reporters to plug in audio equipment to record directly from the sound system”] will be available in the designated media area for media use.
9. Media will not be allowed to leave the designated media area until the meeting is adjourned.
This is going to be a zoo (albeit an unnecessary zoo, and one of town officials’ devising), and obviously some measures are needed to keep things under control. But these restrictions are so tight that you have to wonder if reporters are going to be able to tell what’s going on, or will instead have to try to reconstruct events after the fact.
Will the sound system truly be audible? Will speakers from the floor (excuse me, the grass) be properly patched in to the sound system? Will some provision be made to identify speakers (a notorious problem in covering any town meeting)? Why on earth do all reporters — even lowly print reporters carrying nothing but a pen and a notebook — have to arrive by 7:30 a.m. if the meeting doesn’t start for another three and a half hours? What is #9 about? Surely folks can leave, can’t they? What about a photographer with an early deadline?
For that matter, why does Middleborough need more security than the Democratic and Republican national conventions?
Meanwhile, in today’s Globe, Sean Murphy and Christine Wallgren report that town officials’ dreams of $4 million a year in hotel-tax revenue are just that — dreams. And here is the text (PDF) of the study-committee report the Herald mentioned yesterday — the one that found suicide rates will increase, but, overall, the casino will be a good thing. You can’t make this stuff up.
Finally, NECN has posted the video of our discussion on “NewsNight” last night.