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CounterPoint: 'Sanjiv Handa's Pressroom' (Community Voices)

Sanjiv Handa

Sanjiv Handa

Folks tend to say things at people's funerals that they apparently never considered saying while the deceased person was walking the earth.
    
In that category, clearly, was the announcement by Oakland City Council President Larry Reid at the recent Fremont funeral of Oakland government watchdog Sanjiv Handa. Reid said he was going to reopen the long-closed pressroom at Oakland City Hall and rename it in honor of Handa.
   
Reid said that he had not agreed with the decision of "a couple of [his] colleagues" on the Council several years back to close the pressroom.

I'm not sure who all of the Council colleagues were that Reid was talking about. The locking down of the pressroom in 2001 was taken by then - Council President Ignacio De La Fuente - unilaterally, from what I remember, and not through official Council action - and was specifically designed to keep Handa from using it as his base headquarters in his reporting on various Council meetings and city government activities.

According to a March 23, 2001, letter sent to Oakland City officials by the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists protesting De La Fuente's actions, "Under the previous policy, media access to the pressroom was nearly unlimited, and though the room was kept locked for security reasons, approximately 20 journalists were issued keys to the room. Under the new policy, effective March 19, 2001, all keys were taken back and press room hours severely curtailed; access is now permitted only during meetings of the City Council and its committees - all day Tuesday and two hours on Thursday - and during 'emergency or any special circumstances.'"

If Reid, indeed, had been opposed to De La Fuente's imposed restrictions at the City Hall pressroom back in 2001, I don't remember him publicly saying anything about it back then. Nor do I remember any other member of the Council speaking out in protest at the time it happened (see updated statement here).

Meanwhile, the pressroom remained under restrictive lockdown through two Council presidencies following De La Fuente's: Jane Brunner's from 2007 through 2011 and then Reid himself, who was chosen as Oakland City Council President in January 2011. Reid, therefore, had a full year before Handa's death to reverse De La Fuente's actions, and conceivably could have unlocked the Oakland City Hall pressroom any time he wanted.

The time he chose was a few days after Handa's death - Handa himself was no longer around to be able to use it.

Originally published at safero.org/counterpoints/counterpoints003.html.

Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor is an Oakland native who worked for many years in the African-American Freedom Movement, most of them in the Deep South. He is a journalist and political and social columnist who has written for publications nationally and in the Bay Area.

hmm, what's the impact of the press room being reopened?

I'm so glad someone has pointed out the irony of opening the press room only when Sanjiv is dead.