A local Burlingame rag, the Burlingame Voice, has been checking up on the city to make sure that they are not unfairly censored out of the public view. Yesterday they descended on the public library's board of directors meeting to find out why the board was reviewing their posting policy - the library is one of the Voice's main outlets to the public.
"As far as a distribution point, we value the library," said Russ Cohen, a writer and publisher for the four-page paper, also distributed to Burlingame homes and businesses. "Whenever we look at the bin it is very empty. I hope the policy doesn't change too much."
The review of posting policy came up on the board agenda because someone brought a question to the board's attention. Board President Jeff Bergen said he could not remember off-hand exactly who raised the question. He said that reviewing library policy was a matter of routine.
"We review all kinds of policy from time to time to make sure they are clear and accurate and appropriate," Bergen said. "We would never change a policy with an eye to unfairly exclude a particular group or individual."
Current library policy allows library and city notices and agendas to be posted, governmental notices and materials, and educational, recreational, or cultural events notices. Newspapers are also allowed, but not political campaign materials, commercial advertisements, or religious materials.
City Attorney Larry Anderson said public places like City Hall and the library have to be careful about which materials they allow in - people have the tendency of linking posted materials to the viewpoints of city officials. And the city certainly must not allow pornographic and other offensive materials to be posted.
"Once you open up the first amendment space, you have to decide what you will say no to," Anderson said. "And you don't know what you're going to end up with in the Bay area."
Cohen said he suspected that Vice Mayor Joe Galligan raised the posting policy with the library board because he may be upset at their critical coverage of him in the past. In the first edition of the paper, a year ago, Galligan received a front page slam for his alleged financial conflict of interest in the 310 Airport Blvd. project.
Galligan said he is not involved in the library posting issue. "I don't have a problem with the Burlingame Voice - everyone can write what they want, that's the American way," he said.
The Voice was taken out of City Hall a month ago because, according to City Clerk Ann Musso, only governmental publications are allowed on the display case in the lobby. Musso said the Voice publishers never even asked permission to put the papers there. Constance Cohen, wife of Russ and co-publisher, said she has seen stacks of the Independent in the City Hall lobby and assumed she could put the Voice there too. Constance Cohen said they put the paper together because they were concerned about the changes in their small town. "We want to see it stay the quaint town we fell in love with," she said. "We needed to inform everyone in Burlingame about the quality of life here."