Letter to the Editor: Freedom of the press denied?

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Long Beach City Hall has stooped to a new all-time low.
At the opening of the new Billie Jean King Main Public Library Sept. 21, this seasoned photojournalist/reporter of more than 40 years, was summarily turned away as a media representative by Long Beach City Community Information Officer Rick de la Torre. I was disallowed a media tour of the library interior, excluded from press areas and refused admission when I arrived over an hour early.
Additionally, de la Torre told me that the publications that I often partner with, including the Signal Tribune, Beachcomber News, LBReport.com, Random Lengths News and others were not recognized by the city as legitimate news-gathering entities. Therefore, I was to be denied media/press status. When I asked to speak to his “superior,” Long Beach Chief Public Affairs Officer Kevin Lee, I was told that he was too busy.
Later, I approached Lee. He was evasive and refused to answer my questions. (See YouTube video “PIO Kevin Lee Long Beach”.) He also directed a security guard to escort me out of the media area.
Prior to the event, I had done the customary notifications/requests. But, the calls, texts and emails went unanswered by Lee. I especially wanted to take photos of the library before the crowds to avoid children whose parents might not want them published in the newspapers. While I was displaying and wearing proper credentials, other press representatives were allowed without credentials.
Even though independent news outlets might not be considered by some as important as city hall “owned” news publications, their value is priceless. They bring you the news, truth and information that city hall doesn’t want voters/ citizens to hear. Regardless, they have a right to be there and accorded full and equal media access.
The irony of this whole situation is that we were celebrating the opening of a library which represents freedom of information and honoring a woman (Billie Jean King) who passionately stood up for women’s rights. What blatant hypocrisy!
Sadly, this type of behavior harms the citizens of Long Beach the most. Lee and his cohorts are frivolously courting lawsuits that will ultimately be borne at taxpayer expense. To add insult to injury, Lee was given $175,149 in pay and benefits in 2018 for his disservice to Long Beach taxpayers, according to California Transparent.
At the very least, I expect a sincere written apology to me from Long Beach City and Lee for this egregious violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the California State Constitution and the people of this city. Reassurance should be made that this will not reoccur in the future. Additionally, he should receive a full review of both constitutions and the ethics/sunshine laws training given to all Long Beach City employees.