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Schuyler votes to limit photography, recordings ADVERTISEMENT

Schuyler votes to limit photography, recordings

WATKINS GLEN--At the Monday, Jan. 9, meeting of the Schuyler County legislature, lawmakers approved several resolutions, including a local law that now regulates photography, electronic recording, and/or audio-visual recording in Schuyler County facilities.
The resolution comes after an online videographer visited the county in October, along with many others, to film both indoor and outdoor public areas including the sheriff's office and county building.
The practice is often referred to online as a First Amendment audit, and can get reactions from public officials that range from ambivalence to threats of arrest. Although the actions can be disruptive, citizens generally can film or photograph a wide variety of public places. Many of the "audits" involve law enforcement officers, some having a very strong understanding of the rights of citizens, to others that say filming is prohibited in areas where it is not. Some of the videos demonstrate a clear lack of training on the First Amendment by officials, while others appear to serve only as click-bait to garner as many views as possible on video platforms that may monetize the work.
"I understand being recorded might make people uncomfortable, but it's a first amendment right," said Legislator Mark Rondinaro, who was the only legislator to oppose the resolution. "This is the equivalent of prohibition on filming and audio. I believe that within reason, our default should be to allow observation and recording of public officials unless there's a provable threat."
The law, according to County Attorney Steven Getman, was drafted in consultation with the New York State Office of Court Administration.
The county operates three facilities: the courthouse, the human services building, and the public health/mental health building. These facilities, he said, house sensitive, confidential and protected information.
"The regulation recognizes and promotes the need to protect information of county citizens," said Getman. "The regulations exempt and allow recordings in open meetings, the courthouse steps, parks and other outdoor spaces. We are preserving the privacy of child victims, social services clients, pistol permit holders, and domestic violence victims."
Violating this law is a misdemeanor. A written application to film or photograph will be available through the Schuyler County Administrator for areas that are regulated.
In other news, County Administrator Fonda Chronis reported on sales tax thus far for the year 2022, projecting that the final number will likely be around $14.8 million, which is approximately a 5 percent increase from 2021. The 2023 budget projected $14.1 million in sales tax revenue. Although the bed tax revenue numbers are not finalized yet, Chronis also expects an increase from 2021 numbers.
Chronis shared that during the first week of January, Cayuga Health Transport answered 53 calls plus one non-emergency transport.
"If you take out the mutual aid calls, the average travel time was 6:55, which I think is really outstanding," said Chronis. "71 percent of calls were under the 8-minute travel time. We're at February's performance levels in January, the first week."
Chronis explained that progress has been made on getting the Medicare number.
"Internally, we've been able to connect with someone in Medicare," said Chronis. "We have a name and contact phone number. They've received the application. There were two pieces of information that needed to be supplemented. We've already provided one of those, and the second we hope to have tomorrow. At that point and time, they will have everything they've asked for. They know our situation, and the person on the other end of the phone said she would do everything in her power to expedite things. So I think we're in as good a position as we could be."
Chronis also shared information about a press conference scheduled for Jan. 12, at 1 p.m., at the Performing Arts Center (Middle School Apartments) auditorium with Senator Thomas O'Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.

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