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Cancellation of Open Government discussion a "political cover?" - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Cancellation of Open Government discussion a "political cover?"

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SHREVEPORT, La -

Acrossthe country this week, people are coming together to promote a dialogue aboutthe importance of open government and freedom of information.  It's called "Sunshine Week."  The Shreve Memorial Library was set to host alocal discussion Wednesday night at Cohab in downtown Shreveport.  But 24 hours prior to the meeting, and emailwas sent out saying the program had been canceled.

TheShreve Memorial Library tells KTBS that their reason for pulling out wasbecause they didn't feel that there was a true representation of the communityon the panel. 

Yet,some concerned citizens say there's something else behind it.

"Whathas happened is the exact opposite of the week we were observing," says politicalobserver Elliott Stonecipher.  "Each ofthose groups is right now, trying to deal with public records request.  They've been asked to producedocuments."

Thegroups he's referring to are The Shreve Memorial Library Board and the Caddo Commission.Stonecipher, says the discussion was largely going to be about public recordsrequests.  And, he feels the panelistschosen were those specifically for that reason – they are all well-versed inpublic records requests in our community.

KTBShas obtained an email correspondence between Caddo Commissioner Ken Eppersonand the library.  In it Commissioner Eppersonwrites:

" Youneed to cancel and reschedule this. Who set the agenda, why are all of thoseradical critics of government the only ones on board??  Are there any blacks on the panel, if so,who?? In my opinion your program is a direct affront to the most targetedpoliticians in Caddo Parish! And I'm sure that you know who they are, if youdon't shame on you."

CommissionerEpperson declined to speak with us.

Willie Bradfordis a community activist, who expressed enthusiasm on the event's Facebook page(prior to its cancellation), but also commented how it would be nice to have amore diverse panel.

"My concernabout diversity was secondary. In my opinion, I thought that if we were goingto be balanced then we should've had more diversity, but that should not takeaway from the substance of the debate," says Bradford. 

And that's adebate and discussion Bradford says is one our community should have.  He says he doesn't know why it was canceled -but hopes it had nothing to do with pressure from officials.

"I didn'tsee anything unfair or offensive regarding this event and for them to pull outunder pressure would be very concerning to me."

Stoneciphersays there's more to this cancellation that it seems.  "The issue we're told is the race of thepanelists.  I don't think that's the realissue, I think that's political cover, because what they're really trying to dois get out of these public records requests."

Panelistsand interested community activists still went ahead with the discussion, withoutthe library as a sponsor.  Bradford wasasked after the library canceled if he'd like to be a panelist. 

As for thoseradical critics Epperson's email cited, the panel included two localjournalists, former and current Shreveport city councilmen -- in addition to Stonecipherand Bradford.  It's perhaps to beexpected that public officials aren't always pleased with what journalistsreport.  As for Stonecipher, he's beencritical of local government when it comes to issues likefinishing the 31-32 loops, and property tax rates.  

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