Utah House District 27 has some serious communications problems. I am a journalist and I publish contract work. Last year I was awarded first prize by the Society of Professional Journalists for Magazine News in the State of Utah. This is the award-winning piece I wrote on government transparency, https://catalystmagazine.net/town-halls-community-forum-curated-pep-rallies/. I also used to do contract work with the Daily Herald. I chose to go freelance because I wanted to write about the issues that matter most to me; Utah Politics, the First Amendment, Criminal Justice and the Environment.
Once again, due to staffing shortages in our local mainstream press, our district is left without an assigned reporter.
Access to elected officials by the press and the full-range of constituent views is fundamental to a free, self-governing society. Social Media has evened the playing field between representative and represented. As I discuss in my Catalyst piece above, the essential process of expressing grievances and asking direct questions in a public forum now extends from physical Town Halls to the cyber formats of Facebook and Twitter. We essentially have a direct line of communication with our elected officials that is both public and recorded. The tendency for elected officials to evade direct questions and avoid opinions that may undermine their positions or expose unpopular voting behavior, is well documented.
The case law surrounding the topic of view censorship is also growing; https://www.reuters.com/article/us-virginia-facebook-decision/politicians-cannot-block-social-media-foes-us-appeals-court-idUSKCN1P11SC and https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/09/26/why-its-unconstitutional-politicians-including-president-block-people-social-media/?utm_term=.9a4797cf9c85 and https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/2018/12/04/matt-bevin-must-disclose-screenshots-blocked-accounts/2206222002/
How does this relate to House District 27? While this has been a pattern of behavior from both our former House Rep and our current Senator, recently elected House Representative Brady Brammer has been especially egregious in anti-first amendment on-line behavior. As I am a democrat, and also a former political opponent to Mr. Brammer, it’s no secret we have differing views. Representative Brammer’s wife manages his social media accounts and uses the first person as if it is in fact our representative. She has taken the liberty to block me from the account. This is a violation of my first amendment right to free speech. While it may be obvious to people that deal regularly in the topic of constitutional law, I don’t believe that the general constituent is informed that they have a right to exist on their elected officials social media platform (with some caveats) and express ideas that are neither popular nor endorsed by the page manager. By blocking selected constituents, the public is at a disadvantage. Blocking is censorship of ideas. This practice cuts essential debate off and eliminates critical questioning.
Representative Brammer and Senator Hemmert, among others also have a poor record of public accountability in terms of their public notice for speaking engagements. The first event that was held in January in Highland City was organized by a political special interest group and informed citizens in culled social media groups, obviously missing any opposition party members. Candidates can do this, but the bar is raised for our elected officials. Public meetings require public notice. The second opportunity to meet publicly with Representative Brammer was also a communications fail. Although I’ve been blocked from following or commenting on his political page, I can see and “screenshot” it https://www.facebook.com/RepBradyBrammer/?ref=br_rs. The event was scheduled for Saturday the 2nd at 9am. At 12:30am Saturday morning, his page was updated with a change of venue, a change of time and date. Representative Brammer hosted a different meeting an hour and 45 minutes earlier on Saturday with an obviously culled audience, hosted by the Women’s Legislative Council of Utah County. As it was well attended, they clearly got the schedule memo. However, Highland Mayor Rod Mann and State Auditor John Dougall, were not informed as they showed up to the same, originally announced event I did. Whether its intentional or simply unprofessional, our constituents deserve better. Hopefully next Saturday’s event will be not only publicly announced, it will be recorded and address not only questions of audience members in attendance, but also accept questions in advance for those not able to physically attend. Whatever you call it, a self-governning, representative democracy or a constitutional republic, free speech is the underlying foundation; that is what transparency demands and that is what a free society deserves.