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Pete Stark talks about his TV camera hubbub

Rep. Pete Stark today explained why he excluded a television camera from his town hall meeting Saturday in Hayward, but said it won’t happen again.

As the Chronicle reported yesterday, a KTVU camera wasn’t allowed into the meeting, which had been advertised in a taxpayer-funded mailer as a public event.

“I just told whoever their camera crew was that they couldn’t come in, but that the reporter was welcome to come in and I’d be glad to do an interview with them or they could interview constituents before or after the meeting,” Stark, D-Fremont, said Tuesday.

Stark said he’s grown wary of the effect that cameras have on his meetings, in that some constituents are likelier to act disruptively for the cameras’ benefit while others might be unwilling to speak if they know they’re being recorded and broadcast. “I just decided that the absence of cameras would probably be the better part of valor.”

“But I don’t want to trample all over the First Amendment,” Stark said Tuesday. “I guess now we will be in a position that cameras can come in and I’ll announce to the people that the news cameras are there.”

Alameda County prosecutor and Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell, a Democrat challenging Stark in June’s primary election, called the incident “another example of how Congressman Pete Stark is inaccessible to his constituents – and doesn’t seem to care.”

“Pete Stark does not live in the district he represents, rarely returns, and after nearly 40 years in Congress continues to demonstrate he is completely out of touch with the lives and concerns of local voters,” Swalwell said. “I know this district well, and I can promise that I will never take my duties for granted or lose sight of who I work for – the people of the 15th Congressional District.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.