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.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Ol’ Pete is a crafty one. He realizes the so-called “Town Hall” format is useless as a forum for public opinion. It attracts cranks, weirdos and publicity seekers who do nothing to enlighten the voters. They are a waste of time. Of course, his opponents welcome anything that would make Starkers look ridiculous.

  • Elwood

    Stark is a waste of time.

    And space.

    The arrogant old **** is senile.

  • rew

    Nancy Pelosi said yesterday in the New York Times new leadership, young blood, is good for Congress. I think she’s right about this. That’s why I’m backing 32 year old Alameda County Prosecutor Eric Swallell – he also serves on Dublin City Council – for this open congressional seat, the newly drawn 15th district. Stark is 81 years old, he’s been in Congress 40 years, I think it’s high time he step aside and let the younger generation serve. Most agree Stark is way, way over the hill – he’s no longer effective. Time to go with a younger person in this job.

  • Elwood

    See the Stark follies here:


  • Joe M.

    At least Congressmen Stark and Miller hold these town hall meetings. When have Congressmen Garamendi and McNerney, for example, held such a real, live meeting recently? Even before their district lines were changed, McNerney and Garamendi stopped holding these public meetings. Instead they hold “telephone” meetings, usually “announced” at the last possible moment. No doubt their staff cherrypicks the questioners. God forbid that a citizen actually be allowed to ask an uncontrolled question that might reveal their congressman’s true colors. So the media — from KTVU to Carla Marinucci (who was more qualified to cover Contra Costa development politics than to run the political division of a major newspaper) — should turn their focus to the non-existent town hall meetings by Congressmen Garamendi and McNerney than to quibble with Congressman Stark about media access to his meetings. But that would require a media that actually does its job. It’s so much easier to do a “gotcha” story against one congressmen than to survey other congressional offices and figure out what they don’t do.

  • rew

    These town hall meetings Stark’s doing really are more of a PR thing, Stark is legendary for rarely visiting the districts he represents. He is a total creature of the Beltway. He lives in Maryland, spends virtually all his time in DC; For Stark, visiting the districts he represents is just a horrible chore he tries to avoid at all costs.
    Stark likes the attention and glory he get’s as a Congressman in DC – along with the perks and bennies – he likes that part of the job – but he loathes the more unpleasant aspects of the job, like flying home to the district and atending community meetings and so forth. This type of work – central to the role of a represntative – Stark has long avoided, which is why he stinks as a Congressman.
    George Miller, in contrast, is very close to the district he represents, he flys home every weekend, he’s always huddling with local leaders, attending community meetings, dropping by schools and colleges. Miller gets a “A” as Congressman in my book, Stark gets a “D-“.