First up with the debut of the LesLie Mobile, an act of political expression by local resident Jeff Harding aka the Poolman. Slabbed was there to cover it in Old Town Bay St Louis last Saturday:
Ladies and gents the LesLie mobile. Getting reports Hizzoner is “getting hostile” about this political expression. pic.twitter.com/bF4Y1kxsu4
— Slabbed New Media (@SlabbedNewMedia) August 13, 2016
The people I saw looking at the vehicle thought it was pretty funny, after all it is far better to laugh than cry at the current state of affairs in the Bay:
The LesLie mobile attracting attention here at Second Saturday in Old Town Bay St Louis. pic.twitter.com/kcorDHSqGR
— Slabbed New Media (@SlabbedNewMedia) August 13, 2016
Let’s circle the LesLie Mobile for now and fast forward to last night’s Bay St Louis Council Budget Workshop:
In continuing with its commitment to transparency in government, the City of Bay St. Louis has begun connecting you, and the world, to its City Council workshops and meetings using Facebook Live!
For those who can not attend, but want to be informed and see your officials in action, these events can be viewed live at the time of the meeting and will be able to be viewed any time after by visiting the video link here on the City’s wall. You can share the live stream to your friends and neighbors as well as previously recorded videos once the live stream has stopped.
Today’s City Council Workshop begins at 4:00pm. Items on the agenda are:
1. All Budget Items
2. Council Business/Requests/Information
Of course none of this was run by the City Council, which has no coherent media policy far as I can tell so when the cameras started to roll last night, viewers of the abbreviated Facebook Live Stream were treated to an argument to start off the meeting before the cameras were ordered to be shut down. The video has now been viewed over 1,600 times proving the validity of the Streisand Effect:
The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet. It is an example of psychological reactance, wherein once people are aware something is being kept from them, their motivation to access and spread the information is increased.
Last night at the City Council Chambers workshop or not, the public’s business was being conducted and regardless of the Mayor’s motivations you can’t go wrong erring on the side of transparency. Instead the cameras were shut off. A cynical man would say the cameras were turned off because the council was again going to discuss the possibility of a tax increase.
Whatever the reason, the reaction I’ve heard from the public has been overwhelmingly negative and that does not count Double D, who was covering the workshop for the Echo, who will likely cover the argument over the live stream if I had to guess. Now back to the Mayor’s motivations in the exercise in Free Speech, a concept to which he is hostile when it suits him. I say that because one day later rumors are swirling that he and/or he and his daughter swore out a criminal complaint against the Poolman earlier today because he drove down the Mayor’s street on the way from his shop to Old Town last Saturday:
Wow the mayors daughter pressed charges on the pool man for driving on 10th st. Stalking really???
Slabbed has confirmed that an arrest warrant has been sworn against local businessman Jeff Harding, who declined further comment until he could surrender accompanied by his attorney George Healy. I also have this via email from local businessman Rod Ward:
Jeff Harding just called me and said he has to turn himself in to Chief Denardo for his political statements on his Van. According Jeff they are filing reckless Driving, stalking, etc.. to equal 4 different charges.
Is Free Speech in Bay St Louis predicated on whose ox is bring gored? Will the City Council figure out a coherent media policy? Will the Mayor realize the sheer folly in repeatedly having his political opponents arrested for their exercise of constitutionally protected political expression? Will the long suffering public tire of the tomfoolery and proactively tar and feather the entire bunch. Stay tuned to Slabbed as we answer these questions and more.
“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.” ~ Silence Dogood aka Benjamin Franklin, U.S. Founding Father
Since this post was first published Slabbed was able to obtain the warrants sworn out by the Mayor’s daughter Katie Stewart against Jeff Harding. Worth noting is this latest arrest marks the third time Mayor Fillingame or a member of his family has targeted Harding for arrest since 2014, first when the Mayor attempted to press charges against Councilman Lonnie Falgout and Harding for being outside on the City yard for 37 seconds, the time it took to take two pictures of broken down City equipment. Mayor Fillingame and then City Attorney Donald Rafferty prosecuted Harding for Disturbing the Peace after Harding allegedly shot the bird at then Council President Bobby Compretta, who Harding was addressing during public comments. (Point of Disclosure: I was in attendance at the meeting where Harding was cited and did not witness him shooting the bird at any time at the Councilman during his remarks.) Fillingame appointee Municipal Judge Steve Maggio sentenced Harding to 180 days in jail for the alleged transgression. despite the fact that numerous Federal and State Courts have ruled that shooting the bird is constitutionally protected speech. Harding’s prosecution was essentially abandoned by the City after Harding appealed to the Hancock County Circuit Court and agreed to enter a pretrial diversion program.
Following are the warrants sworn by Stewart against Harding and the LesLie Mobile: