AG opinion: Councilor wrongly barred Phoenix video

BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor
11/26/2008 11:11 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In a Nov. 18 opinion, the tribe’s Attorney General’s Office stated Council Speaker Meredith Frailey wrongly denied the Cherokee Phoenix video coverage of a June public forum concerning the tribe’s planned takeover of W.W. Hastings Indians Hospital.

“The Cherokee Nation Freedom of Information and Right of Privacy Act of 2001 provides members of the public and the press with a statutory right to make sonic recordings at open meetings,” the opinion states. “Government employees and officials do not have the authority to restrict the tribal newspaper staff from making a video recording of a public meeting or forum unless the restriction is reasonable, narrowly tailored, advances a substantial government interest and does not obstruct other alternative forms of communication.”

Cherokee Phoenix staffer Craig Henry said Frailey told him he was not allowed to video record a June 26 public forum where tribal health officials, administration cabinet members and councilors answered questions from the public and discussed Cherokee Nation’s planned assumption of Hastings.

He said before the event Frailey asked CN Communications Officer Mike Miller and CN Leadership Group Leader Todd Enlow if they had set up the camera.

“They told her no, so she turned to me and said I had to take it down,” Henry said. “She told me they (she and forum co-sponsor Councilor Bradley Cobb) were not allowing anyone to record the meeting. She said they were afraid people would be reluctant to speak if there were cameras.”

Henry also said Frailey told him several other media outlets had inquired about video access and that they were denied.

“We considered this a public forum, and it was called primarily for the benefit of W.W. Hastings employees so they could learn and discuss freely the topics concerning the future of Hastings hospital,” Frailey said. “We felt that video taping such an event would have a rather chilling effect on the free flow of ideas and communications concerning the issues that arose.”

However, according to the opinion, “Members of the public may be unable, due to work or family commitments, to attend the forum on the date and time prescribed. Having a recording of the event available to the public allows a larger number of citizens to benefit from the public discourse. Many of the questions asked by members of the public at the forum may be questions of interest to all of the citizens of the Cherokee Nation.”

Jami Custer, the staff writer who covered the forum, said no audience comments were made during or after the officials’ presentation and that audience members wrote questions on paper and put them into a box.

The questions were later read by Cobb, who allowed officials to answer. She added that the only audience member who spoke during the forum did so to reiterate a question he wrote for the panel to answer.

Frailey said the forum’s original plan called for allowing public comments, but because the forum ran long, Cobb, who moderated the event, didn’t open it up for comments.

The two councilors sponsored the forum so the tribe’s negotiation team could publicly present an overview of the proceedings with Indian Health Service about the planned Hastings takeover from the IHS.

Secretary of State Melanie Knight said Cobb and Frailey were two of the four councilors designated by the council’s Health Committee who attended the negotiations.
About the Author
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, switching his focus from writing to story development, editing, design and other duties.

He is a member of NAJA, as well as the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and Society for News Design.

Travis earned his journalism degree with a print emphasis in 1999 from Oklahoma City University. While at OCU, he served as editor, assistant editor and sports reporter for the school’s newspaper.

He is married to Native Oklahoma publisher Lisa Snell. The couple has two children, Sadie and Swimmer. He is the grandson of original enrollee Swimmer Wesley Snell and Patricia Ann (Roberts) Snell.
TRAVIS-SNELL@cherokee.org • 918-453-5358
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, switching his focus from writing to story development, editing, design and other duties. He is a member of NAJA, as well as the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and Society for News Design. Travis earned his journalism degree with a print emphasis in 1999 from Oklahoma City University. While at OCU, he served as editor, assistant editor and sports reporter for the school’s newspaper. He is married to Native Oklahoma publisher Lisa Snell. The couple has two children, Sadie and Swimmer. He is the grandson of original enrollee Swimmer Wesley Snell and Patricia Ann (Roberts) Snell.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
05/25/2015 08:00 AM
NORMAN, Okla. – Cherokee Phoenix Executive Editor Bryan Pollard has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2003. In March, Vision Maker Media interviewed Pollard in Norman during the Native Media Summit at the Gaylord College of Journalism. The interview covers Pollard’s early career and the founding of Street Roots in Portland, Ore., the early history of the Cherokee Phoenix, the modern Cherokee Phoenix, and the failings of mainstream media in covering Indian Country, and the pioneering use of the Cherokee language in the Cherokee Phoenix. Pollard said the paper made its debut in 1828 and the founding editor Elias Boudinot wanted to create a news source that told stories about the Cherokee people, but not necessarily for the Cherokee people. “He (Boudinot) wanted to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Cherokees were civilized,” Pollard said. “That Cherokees were able to govern themselves, that we were creative, that we were deliberative, that we were humorous, that we had many, many great qualities because at the time – you have to keep in mind – this was just prior to the era of Indian removal. So a lot of tribes were under pressure to be forced out of their homelands and the Cherokees were in the same situation.” Since working for the newspaper, Pollard has helped to expand the audience of the print and digital publication by implementing new products including an electronic newsletter, a radio show and online videos as well as giving the Cherokee Phoenix a presence in social media. “As a result, the Cherokee Phoenix is recognized as one of the best newspapers in the state of Oklahoma and all of Indian Country,” VMM reports. To listen to this broadcast in its entirety visit: <a href="http://www.visionmakermedia.org/listen/bryan-pollard" target="_blank">http://www.visionmakermedia.org/listen/bryan-pollard</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/22/2015 01:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – A measure by state Rep. Chuck Hoskin that’s intended to provide a degree of protection for highway maintenance vehicles and workers encountered little resistance in the legislature and was signed recently by the governor. House Bill 1113 by Hoskin, D-Vinita, establishes a safety zone around state highway and turnpike maintenance vehicles and employees. Transportation Department records indicate that 57 of their highway maintenance employees have been killed in work zones, while numerous others have been involved in accidents and close calls due to unsafe speed, proximity or inattention. Also, the Turnpike Authority recorded 50 injuries among its toll and maintenance personnel over the past three years, agency spokesman Jack Damrill reported. HB 1113 “may actually enable some hardworking Oklahoma man or woman to return home to his or her family after a tough day on the job,” Hoskin said. The bill sailed through the House unopposed, 96-0, and passed the Senate, 41-3. The bill was co-authored by Rep. Ben Sherrer, D-Chouteau, and was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada. With the signature of Governor Fallin, HB 1113 goes into effect Nov. 1. The new law will require any driver approaching a parked maintenance vehicle assigned to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation or the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to move over into another lane, if possible. “If the driver is not able to change lanes, or if to do so would be unsafe,” the motorist should proceed with “due caution” and slow to “a safe speed for the existing road, weather, and traffic conditions.” Such precautions already are mandated by state law when approaching any stationary emergency vehicle such as an ambulance or wrecker that is “displaying a flashing combination” of red and/or blue lights. Similar precautions are required when approaching a location where an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper or other law enforcement officer is writing a traffic ticket or working an accident. “For far too long we’ve inadvertently overlooked the real safety concerns of these public servants who put their lives on the line to keep our roadways safe,” Sherrer said. “This measure sends a message that we value their service and want them to be safe while performing their jobs.” A violation of the law will be a misdemeanor offense. For an initial violation, the penalty will be a fine of $5 to $500 or by a 10-day jail sentence. For a second conviction within a year, the penalty will be a 20-day jail term. For a third or subsequent violation within a year, punishment will be a jail sentence of up to six months and/or a fine of up to $500. Hoskin said HB 1113 was prompted by a discussion he had with some highway maintenance workers from his legislative district.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/21/2015 02:00 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board will be meeting via conference call at 9 a.m. CDT, June 2, 2015. To attend, please use the conference call information listed below. The meeting agenda is <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9284_150602_EBAgenda.pdf" target="_blank">here</a>. Dial-in: 866-210-1669 Entry code: 4331082
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/21/2015 11:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tulsa Veterans Center is partnering with the Cherokee Nation to create three new combat support groups at the Cherokee Nation Veterans Service Center. To enroll, veterans need to bring a copy of their DD214 or discharge papers that show their combat service. According to a release, the VSC staff understands the issues combat veterans go through and wish to give a safe and private place for these veterans to be around other veterans who can relate to their experiences. The Combat Support Group meets from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. the second and fourth Mondays each month. The Vietnam Combat Support Group meets from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. the first and third Wednesdays each month. The Women’s Combat Support Group meets from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. the second and fourth Wednesdays each month. This group is open to any female who has served in a combat zone. Female combat veterans are encouraged to join other female combat veterans to talk about their experiences and to find others who can relate to your experiences. For more information, call Matthew Tiger at 918-453-5693.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/20/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A wreath ceremony to honor Cherokee veterans will be held at 2 p.m. on May 22 in recognition of Memorial Day at the Cherokee Nation’s Veterans Center and Warrior Memorial located on the Tribal Complex. Those expected to attend include Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, veterans and their families. According to a CN press release, the program includes the raising of the flags and a solo performance by a Cherokee National Youth Choir member. “Cherokees have always honored and revered our warriors,” Crittenden, a U.S. Navy veteran, said. “We invite the public to join us and pay tribute to all the men and women who bravely fought and died for our freedoms.” The release states that there will be a reception and Code Talkers exhibit following the program. The exhibit includes 12 panels of World War I and II memorabilia to recognize soldiers from the Cherokee Nation and other tribes who used their Native languages to relay important military messages in unbreakable codes, the release states. It also features the 2013 Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the tribe in recognition of the dedication and valor of Native American code talkers during WWII, the release states. For more information, call 918-772-4166.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/19/2015 04:00 PM
LOCUST GROVE, Okla. – The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation recently renovated a park in Locust Grove for children of all ages to enjoy. The $30,000 renovation project helped provide new picnic tables, slides and a swing set for the park located on the corner of Delaware Street and Ross Avenue. “The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is constantly looking for project opportunities that not only benefit Cherokee children, but all children in our communities, and taking advantage of this opportunity at Locust Grove was a no-brainer for our group,” HACN Executive Director Gary Cooper said. “This newly restored playground gives the children of the community a safe and fun place to come and just enjoy time in the sun.” The HACN used money from Housing and Urban Development funds for the renovation project. “The Cherokee Nation and the Housing Authority are doing so much to promote healthy families. This play structure will be a place for children to come and have fun while they stay healthy,” Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor said. “I appreciate Principal Chief Bill John Baker and the Housing Authority’s enthusiasm for this project for the Locust Grove community.” CN citizen and Locust Grove resident Amber Buckskin Swarer said the addition is exciting for the community, including her two boys. “We are just so excited to have somewhere we can take our kids,” said Swarer. “Before this, there was not really anything. Now we have something and can get our children outdoors and active, and we don’t have to drive to another town to take advantage of it.” Locust Grove resident Ema Parker said she is thankful the new playground equipment is age-appropriate for toddlers, such as her 13-month-old, Chett. “It’s nice to have somewhere with safe, clean equipment that I can bring my son to so that we can play outside, and I’m so glad they put in the baby swings because there wasn’t much catering to babies before,” said Parker. “I appreciate everything the Cherokee Nation and Housing Authority have done to help out and give the kids a good place to play here in Locust Grove.” For more information on the HACN, visit <a href="http://www.hacn.org" target="_blank">www.hacn.org</a>.