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Once again, MidPen kicks out Review from event

Sheriff Greg Munks came out to tonight to talk to the residents of Moonridge. So did Supervisor Don Horsley, Mayor John Muller, City Manager Magda Gonzalez and enough deputies, county officials and Moonridge residents to fill up the neighborhood meeting hall.

It was perhaps the largest gathering of public officials on the Coastside since Farm Day. In fact, the only folks who were conspicuously absent were the media. I was the only reporter who showed up, and when I walked up to enter the meeting hall I was promptly told by a MidPen Housing employee that I wasn’t allowed inside.

Could I listen to the meeting outside? Sure, he said. Then he shut the door on me. The Sheriff’s public information officer approached and told me that I would have to wait in the “press area” – a bench on the side of the courtyard, intentionally out of listening range.

I sat down on the nearest bench, and the PIO told me I was sitting in the wrong spot. She pointed to a bench about 30 feet farther away. I ended up leaving with steam probably coming out of my ears. What I really wanted to do was give everyone around a piece of my mind, even though that would’ve been a really bad idea with the number of officers with firearms around that evening.

The big irony here is that the meeting tonight was supposed to be a fluffy good news kind of event, the type that public servants usually love to see in the newspaper. Top officials from the Sheriff’s Office arranged the gathering in an effort to rebuild bridges with the residents of Moonridge and to share their efforts to better deal with mental-crisis situations.

The elephant in the room, of course, was the Serrano shooting back in June, which understandably remains a sore spot for many Moonridge neighbors. I was told that Sheriff’s officials had preemptively told residents they would not answer questions about the shooting. That might be a wise decision, given that the Serrano family currently has a civil-rights lawsuit pending against the county.

But what escapes me is why the Sheriff’s efforts to extend an olive branch to the community isn’t something the local newspaper is allowed to cover. To my knowledge, I was the only person who was singled out and banned from entering the meeting tonight. Anyone else at the meeting could have been taking cellphone photos or live tweeting the event, but we were excluded for reasons that I don’t quite understand.

I sort of expected it though. This is the third time I've been kicked out of Moonridge in recent months, and it's happening every time I've come out to cover anything even faintly associated with the Serrano shooting.

As I’ve been told many times now by MidPen officials, Moonridge is private property and its managers can ban any non-residents they don’t want on the premises. Back in June after the Serrano shooting, a MidPen spokeswoman explained to me that this was to protect the residents so they could privately grieve or seek counseling. There were public officials invited, but these were not public meetings, she emphasized.

These rules continued over the summer as MidPen and other organizers put together two separate sets of meetings to address the outpouring of emotion following Serrano's death. Three meetings were held at Moonridge (private, media not allowed), and three more were held off-site and open to anyone to attend.

To a certain degree, I can understand why reporters were initially kept at arm's distance. Originally, there were some animosity from Moonridge residents towards the various reporters and video crews who flooded the community right after the shooting. One mother later told investigators that a newspaper reporter misquoted her daughter's account of how the shooting transpired, and as a result she said her daughter was bullied at school.

That was about five months ago. To my experience, any hard feelings from those early days has subsided, and the residents I've since spoken with have generally been friendly and happy to talk, despite the occasional language barrier. In fact, I only learned about tonight's meeting because some residents invited me to attend.

Nevertheless, the ban on reporters remains in place and has become more explicit. In August, the Serrano family and other residents sought permission to design a “healing circle” mural at the location of the shooting. MidPen officials wanted a memorandum of understanding for the art project, and at the end of the document they included a cryptic stipulation: “We request that the media is not a part of the project.”

One participant invited me to come out to watch the mural being built, but when I got there several organizers made clear to me they believed they would get in trouble if a story appeared in the Review. This was happening outside, out in the open, right next to a public street. Did MidPen really have any authority to prohibit coverage? Probably against my better judgment, I put away my camera and notepad, and the story never happened.

Now it comes to this – tonight at least 20 county and city officials convened a neighborhood meeting to selectively talk about their efforts for a selective segment of the public. The area set aside for the press might as well have been in Siberia. The Sheriff's PIO later even handed me a media release explaining the meeting excluding the media.

I’ve vented my frustrations on Talkabout before about being kicked out of Moonridge, but this is starting to verge on something out of an Orwell novel. If this meeting tonight was supposed to be about rebuilding bridges, it has taken a sledgehammer to my faith in that goal.


Comments

I'd love to hear a legal opinion on this...

--Darin


Again, solutions, not meaningless gestures.

If they were tryna shut you up,

and you were tryna shut others up, how will we measure?

In solutions the sheriff offers, or in the coverage you might be up to allowing?

I know this name/no name stuff is to some a killer,

I won't have it one way for me and another for you,

tough luck this is your platform.

Censorship=Censorship

Exclusion=Exclusion

no matter what you at the review think about your rights as the local paper of note.

I'd help if you didn't have floating goalposts


This is ridiculous. Moonridge is certainly not private property, it was built and is current maintained by our tax dollars. The residents there are able to live in nice housing at artificially low cost due to the generosity of other people (namely, us taxpayers and citizens).

You should have been more forceful in demanding your rights. And especially so in the presence of so many police officers, since they should have assisted you in upholding your rights.


Please publish an article about this absurd media ban on the front page next Wed.


I don't agree with HMB Surf and his suggested "forceful" attempt. The power of the pen by Mark is far more effective!


Amazing. Civil Rights Violation.


Outrageous. Bring a film crew next time. This is worthy of a 60 Minutes expose.


Seal, you're mistaking "forceful" for "violent". Martin Luther King and Ghandi espoused non-violence, but you could hardly say they weren't forceful.

The "power of the pen" already hasn't worked twice for Noack and the Review, so time for more forceful measures.


What a disgrace!! Great reporting, Mark - unlike the sheeple reporters in San Mateo County who dutifully write down everything Wagstaffe and his crony Munks says like court stenographers.

Munks sure is thin skinned. He also refused to answer questions about why he was found in a brothel with underaged teenaged trafficked prostitutes miles from the center of Las Vegas.. What a coward.

The press needs to hold him - and his number one protector DA Wagstaffe- accountable.


HMB Surf you have misunderstood my comment. The power of the pen is the mighty sword which reaches out to the populace. Martin Luther King was excellent at it.


@Seal - whatever, dude. As long as you make sense to yourself.


It is so good to see the press AND the people outraged over the loss of a freedom. The more we tolerate it the more loss of rights we will see.

This is a very important issue and should be taken into account on election day.

I usually refrain from saying what i would do if ---. Sometimes I have to declare.

If I were one of the elected officials at this meeting, I believe that I would have corrected the situation or left it to those who care nothing about freedom of the press,

Look what it says about those officials AND the people whose votes they are seeking. Make no mistake, it was about seeking votes.

The names of the officials who were part of this should be listed.

-


Barnus makes an excellent point. The CC members should have left if the press was turned away.


MidPen appears unable to professionally manage a development complex after it's built. Let's keep that in mind for any other projects they might want to build in the area.


Mayor John Muller and City Manager Magda Gonzalez are not exactly committed to the free exchange of ideas. The Mayor often tells people what they can and cannot say at HIS city council meetings. Magda Gonzalez has shut down any cooperation with citizens who file PRA requests.

It looks to me like MidPen runs their sandbox the way Clay and Bill run this one. They decide who can participate. The arbitrary enforce their rules at a whim.


Mark, Very sorry to hear.

Mid Pen Housing and the Sheriff's Office should remove the SHERIFF Studio Apartment from outside the Serrano-Garcia home for several reasons. One is it doesn't belong there, it is not a substation. Two it is a daily reminder of who killed Yanira.


The supporters of the Serrano family sound fearful. Can the reporter explain why this is so? Do they fear retaliation by DA Wagstaffe and Munks for speaking out against them?


Legal Trickery #142: How a phony lawsuit is withdrawn and the steps required to achieve that end.

Preface

First of all, it should be clear to everyone that the sheriff's deputy was not to blame for the death of this disturbed individual. He was, without provocation, attacked and despite retreating some 150 feet, was eventually forced to use his weapon. A criminal assault was stopped short of the point when the deputy – who was reasonably concerned he was under threat - could have been injured.

Despite the attempts of the plaintiff's attorneys to manufacture blame, the hard truth is staring them in the face: This won't be the big payday they expected. The public started paying attention to their scam. Plaintiff's attorneys have most likely already signaled to the County they will accept a settlement – what one might refer to as “Go Away” money. The amount – most likely dictated by the County's insurers – is discussed in a room which has been disinfected of the concepts of right and wrong. It is simply easier to capitulate to the incidental extortion than to mount a costly defense.

Concurrently, County officials reacted to the incident by proposing and funding a pilot program which matches mental health professionals with deputies when they roll to these sorts of calls. Don't miss the fine print: “When weapons are not involved.”

The meeting you (the Review) missed was the County's introduction of that program. “Faces” were brought in to give the presentation weight. The phrasing was broad and reinforced the County's commitment to its citizens...while also being a bit too appeasing for the general public. Firm-jawed statements like “We want to make sure this type of tragedy never happens again” were offered without referring to any particular incident (because they arrived under the umbrella of not talking about the case). Does the initiative prevent such tragedies? Of course not. It's all about the situation...and who has access to weapons...and on and on.

Had the press reported on what was specifically said, the “wrong message” might have been heard: That an unlawful act and/or a phony claim of damages can force the County to cough up more services. Good can be compelled from Bad. The mind races. Best keep the press out of earshot.

If the reception of the residents is that the County is seen as addressing resident's concerns, then the lawsuit withdrawal talks may proceed at pace. An “undisclosed amount” will be paid to the family (and their “advisors”...who have very sticky hands by the way), The County and their deputy will either “admit no blame” or point to the withdrawal of the lawsuit as proof it lacked merit. Those with strong opinions in favor of the lawsuit will save their ire for the next incident...when they will appear to beat their chests and bring up the same lies they currently believe as if they were truth.

The sound of slithering (despite cash-stuffed pockets) will be heard fading into the distance. The poison which they injected into the community will remain.


Testing. Testing. Is TA still alive?


To reporter Mark: Are you going to report on the question that was hurled at the meeting by a Hispanic woman to Sheriff Munks about what his deputies are sharing with each other on the internet?


WOW!


I appreciate your desire to vent your frustrations, Mark, and I'm glad you have shared them with us. But it seems as if you are taking MidPen's position as law. Channel your energy into reporting on whether FOIA laws have been violated.

Given that the city itself thoughtfully posted the summer "community meetings" on its own website back in June I would have thought that the meetings were for the entire community, media included. (Web Link)

There was no mention there of the Moonridge-located meetings being only for Moonridge residents at the exclusion of the rest of the Half Moon Bay community. If that's the case (as it appears to be) that's a shame because the implications of this tragic shooting impact the entire HMB community.

The really interesting story that I'm waiting on from you is the one that goes into whether the view of the MidPen Housing staff is in fact legal under the FOIA or Brown Act and whether the Review is filing an FOIA complaint. I suspect that legal counsel for MidPen would say the group is within its legal rights to bar access to the meetings, but this could be one of the gray areas when non-profits aren't necessarily excluded from the law. And that residents were afraid to allow you to cover the "healing circle" mural project is just plain sad. (Plus a "request" is not an order so yes, you should have gone with your better judgment.)

You mention that there have been many public officials at these meetings. At any one of them, was there a quorum of a HMB governing committee or council? If there was, it could mean that the meetings should have been open based on those committees' rules.

At any rate, it's time to do more than complain. Find out whether MidPen has broken the law. It shouldn't be a big spend for the Review; oomplaint forms are available online and there are sunshine law advocates out there who may be able to help.

If Freedom of Information laws have been broken -- now that's a good story. If not, it would be helpful to know how MidPen is protected from being transparent.

Whether we live in Moonridge or not, we all have a role to play in understanding, coming to terms with and finding a holistic way forward from this very difficult-to-understand tragedy. We can't change or help our neighbors otherwise.


I am not a reporter, nor an attorney, nor a resident of Moonridge, but I am a resident of HMB and Moonridge is just as much a part of our community as Canada Cove, Casa del Mar, Frenchman’s Creek and the homes off Mirada.

With that as a basis and backdrop:

The tragic shooting and subsequent death of an 18 y/o Moonridge resident at her home impacts and effects us all in multiple regards. I, for one, am very interested in all the meetings that take place over this matter and have attended most of them. This shooting death happened to an 18 y/o girl in Moonridge, but it could just as easily have happened in any other subdivision or home in HMB, and without thorough transparency and community participation, just might. The future is yet to be written.

Moonridge was paid for with public funds. The monthly rents are subsidized with public funds.

The meeting being discussed here, the most recent one where Mark, and by extension all of us, was ejected because he is a reporter for the only newspaper we have, while inside the publicly funded structures and publicly funded monthly rents multiple public officials held a meeting over this incident is such a contradiction to logic, contradiction to public health and safety, and such a contradiction and slap to and for the rest in this community is abhorrent.

I’m sure Moonridge officials have some legitimate policies established to support a good living environment in the Moonridge community; but for the life of me I just can’t reconcile the exclusion of our only means of learning what was said, what happened and what changes we might expect going forward as one good or legitimate or even legal policy

The Review has their own legal team and I have to believe they are on it, but Mark’s exclusion, his repeated and continuous exclusion from the “secret” pubic meetings is starting to get on my nerves. I hope the Review feels they are in a good position to challenge this exclusion ... and that if forced, beat the snot out of this particular Moonridge policy that hurts us all.


When a group of individuals is sequestered and spoken to separately from the general public, this is an acknowledgement of the speaker’s belief/view/impression/prejudice/bias that (1) the tailored message is unsuitable for the general public; and/or (2) the sequestered group is incapable of equal standing with the general public. Smells like racism…despite the best intentions.

On a separate plane, thank you for the behind the scenes look at the difficulties you face as a reporter. Perhaps some standard text could be used to inform the general public when such meetings/assemblies are held. For example:

(Date) The Review was barred from access to a meeting at the Moonridge housing complex. Sheriff Greg Munks, Supervisor Don Horsley, Mayor John Muller and City Manager Magda Gonzalez attended along with several deputies.

It is our policy to refuse to reprint meeting talking points or to accept quotes from participants when our reporters do not have access to such gatherings. At the Review, we strive to present a balanced view of the issues we cover. When we are prevented from doing our jobs, it is better that we report nothing at all.


So --- "they" win. We lose.

What an absurd policy.

-


@Barnus... (Assuming you responded to my post above)

The first loss is always at the hands of those who believe they can close a meeting and make it stick. No legal action can reverse the events of that evening, but something can be done from this point forward.

If you want "them" to hold open meetings, don't play into the benefits which closed meetings offer "them".

Name those who, by their participation, condone closed meetings. Ask them why they chose to participate in a closed meeting at the next public event. Stress that you expect them, as public officials, to support only open meetings in the future...and to refuse to attend

any future closed meetings.

"No quotes" eliminates the colored commentary which is intended to move/affect public opinion.


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