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Remap panel defends using non-wired meeting room; Rejects criticism of lack of transparency

Members of a citizens commission that will recommend new boundaries for Common Council districts claim logistical problems prevent them from meeting in a "wired" room so sessions can be streamed live on the Internet and taped for later viewing on cable television.

Some members of the commission, officially known as the Citizens Committee on Reapportionment, criticized lawmakers who have suggested that the remapping process should be more transparent.

Panel members have argued that all meetings are open to the public. Audio recordings also are being made of meetings and have recently been posted on the city's website.

At a Wednesday night meeting, Marc Panepinto, the committee's co-chairman, said the nine-member volunteer panel doesn't deserve to be portrayed in the media as lacking transparency.

"[The claim] personally offends me, and I think it offends all of the efforts we've made," Panepinto said.

Matthew L. Brown, the other co-chairman, went a step further, suggesting that critics might be trying to deflect attention from the commission's work and casting aspersions to further their own "political agendas."

The dispute should "die in silence," said Brown, who added that the commission's work will speak for itself.

But some lawmakers are upset that the commission ignored a resolution the Council adopted this week asking the panel to provide live video streams of meetings on the Internet and videotape sessions so they can be aired on cable television's government channel.

North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. said he is troubled that the commission chose not to hold its recent meeting in Council Chambers, which is wired for video.

Golombek released an e-mail indicating that a crew was waiting in the chambers to tape the meeting, but that the commission opted to gather in a small conference room one floor above that does not have video capabilities. The meeting was opened to the public, and plans call for posting the audio of the session on the city's website, with those of most of the panel's previous meetings.

The commission's next three meetings will be held in the conference room that is not set up for video recording, according to a media advisory that was released.

Brown told The Buffalo News on Friday the panel has no objections to the live streaming or videotaping of meetings. But he said Council Chambers is not conducive to the type of work sessions that the panel conducts. The room currently used, Brown said, is set up to be a "working room."

"We are not trying to be defiant to anyone," he added.

The redistricting process will redraw the boundaries of all nine Common Council districts for the next decade. The city lost 10.7 percent of its residents in the past decade, and districts must be redrawn to reflect population shifts.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com