Community access cable channels in the North Bay and statewide are keeping a worried watch on a bill that recently earned rapid approval in the California Assembly and is now working its way through the state Senate. As currently written, AB 2987 could drastically cut funding for access channels and "would kind of turn everything on its head," says Dan Villalva, interim executive director for Community Media Center of Santa Rosa, which includes cable stations 69, 70, 71 and 72 in Santa Rosa. Currently, cable companies have to negotiate franchise agreements with each local entity. Santa Rosa's agreement took three years to create and is excellent for the community, Villalva says. Part of the local franchise fee supports the access channels. In the name of streamlining the process and quickly creating effective competition--and, theoretically, lower rates for consumers--AB 2987 would move all franchise arrangements to the state level. The state would get the franchise fees and local access channels would be given 1 percent. Over its 15-year contract, that would cost Community Media Center the equivalent of its annual budget, or about $855,000. The bill would also make local governments responsible for the content of shows; currently, individual producers are accountable for their own content. Villalva says the legislation is being pushed by telephone corporations that want to compete with the cable companies without going through the time-consuming local-franchise process. "This isn't about competition. Telephone companies can compete today under the current rules. But they want to play by their own rules."
People are encouraged to walk, bike, carpool or take public transit (anything but drive solo) to a July 12 town-hall meeting called "Creating a Livable City." The Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, the Neighborhood Alliance, the Leadership Institute for Ecology and Economy, and the League of Women Voters have banded together to sponsor this forum looking at how auto-oriented sprawl creates communities where neighbors must fight to make streets safe for bicyclists or pedestrians. Neighborhood leaders, builders, planners and others will discuss why this is happening and what can be done about it. The goal, organizers say, is to create a city where every child can walk or bicycle to school, and neighbors feel a true sense of community. The meeting will be held from 7pm to 8:30pm in the Odd Fellows Hall, 545 Pacific Ave., Santa Rosa. Parking is limited. For more details, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.