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Library gives up vote on cable board

School district has no desire to run TV station

December 28, 2011 - Two letters defining the future relationships of the Oxford Public Library and Oxford Community Schools with regard to the Oxford Area Cable Communications Commission were recently submitted to officials.

In a Dec. 22 letter to the commission, Library Director Bryan Cloutier stated the entity he represents is giving up its voting rights and seat on the cable commission, which oversees the operation of Oxford Community Television (OCTV), the local public access station.

"Let it be known that it is with both regret and reservation that effective immediately, the Oxford Public Library hereby relinquishes its voting privileges among the Oxford Area Cable Communications Commission, and no longer wishes to continue its stakeholder privileges and vested interests in OCTV," he wrote.

Cloutier indicated the reason for doing this is because it has become "predominantly quantifiable that political agendas supersede common good."

"Moreover, any unit of government that withholds the people's funds as a form of strong-arm political tactics has no place for the Oxford Public Library to be involved," he wrote.

The above statement refers to the Oxford Township Board's decision, back in September, to withhold its OCTV funding for 2012 until an interlocal agreement for the cable commission is completed and approved, including an update of the body's bylaws.

Cloutier's letter comes on the heels of recent discussions over whether the library should continue to have a vote on the seven-member cable commission given it contributes no funding toward the operation of OCTV.

Oxford Township, which contributes 80 percent of the total funding for OCTV, made it clear it does not believe the library should continue to have a vote on the cable board.

At its Dec. 14 meeting, the township board voted 5-2 to recommend the cable commission's bylaws be amended to create a new voting composition consisting of three votes for itself, two votes for Addison Township and one vote each for the villages of Oxford and Leonard.

In his letter, Cloutier noted how the library was one of the founding members of the cable commission and "has played an active and instrumental role" in developing OCTV for more than 25 years.

"During its infancy stages, elected officials, educational leaders and informational professionals rallied together for one common good; to foster an environment where community collaboration crossed governmental and organizational boundaries in pursuit of quality public access television," Cloutier wrote.

OCTV was created "in good faith, to bridge government, non-profit and education; not to create the unwelcomed bureaucracy it has unfortunately become subjected to today," Cloutier wrote.

Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn took offense to Cloutier's statements.

"It's real simple – the library doesn't give (the) cable (commission) any money, so why should they get a vote when everybody else on the board contributes?" he said. "This is all about fairness and to the township, it's not very fair that the library gets a vote without putting up any money. We're just trying to do what's right for the people we represent.

"(Cloutier) can attack us all he wants. It doesn't change the fact that (the library) doesn't contribute anything."

OCTV is currently funded by contributions from Oxford Township and Village, Addison Township and the Village of Leonard. Each of these municipalities contributes either 100 or 50 percent of the cable franchise fees it receives from Charter Communications and AT&T.

Dunn said the township's decision to withhold its funding for 2012 until certain things were accomplished was not "a form of strong-arm political tactics" as Cloutier asserted.

"We did it because we felt there was no oversight on the cable commission's part and we wanted them to get their house in order," he explained. "The only way we have to change anything is through our funding. When the voters don't approve a millage because they want to see some changes in their government, is that strong-arm politics, too?"

The cable commission also received a Dec. 15 letter from Oxford Community Schools stating the district has no desire to run OCTV.

"We read in the newspaper that the Oxford Area Cable Communications Commission is interested in speaking with Oxford Community Schools about possibly taking over and operating Oxford Community Television," wrote Superintendent Dr. William Skilling in a Dec. 15 letter. "We decided it would be too much of an undertaking at this time. We feel the school district can best support Oxford Community Television through producing programming at the school and providing student interns."

The Dec. 7 Leader article to which Skilling referred in his letter contained no references to the school district taking over OCTV and running it.

The article stated how former Cable Commissioner Jack Gray – who represented the schools prior to his Dec. 9 resignation and the district's withdrawal from the board – informed the cable board of the district's "interest in forging a new relationship, a different kind of relationship" with OCTV and "maybe housing (the station) in the schools."

After Gray's suggestion, the cable commission expressed an interest in further discussing the issue with district administrators.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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