Steamboat Springs Iowa State University has removed a video from its Web site featuring Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley organizer Steve Aigner, who is a professor emeritus in the school's Department of Sociology. A university official said the video was removed at Aigner's request.
"The simple reason was that Steve Aigner asked for us to take it down," said Steve Jones, director of communications for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Jones said the university has an unwritten policy to honor such requests. "It's kind of a non-issue to us."
In the presentation titled "The Case of Steamboat Springs - Experiencing the Classroom," Aigner discusses the history of Steamboat and his and the Community Alliance's views about a number of local issues from a sociological perspective.
In the video, Aigner says Steamboat "lives on growth" and that the Community Alliance has "fought growth forever." He says the fact city government relies on sales - rather than property - tax revenues is the result of "bad leadership" and pressure from real estate and development interests that have historically controlled local politics and "didn't want to deter the buying of property."
Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush denied Aigner's claims in the lecture that he had received "inside information" from her, and Aigner has drawn back from some of his statements. The Community Alliance and some of its members have risen in Aigner's defense. President Jack White also acknowledges that the organization's positions were exaggerated in the lecture.
"I think if he was doing the lecture here in Steamboat, he would have talked differently, used different words," White said. "He was speaking to a different audience."
In e-mails Wednesday, Aigner wrote that he requested the video be removed because he never intended the lecture for public consumption and that it was intended for a specific audience with a scholarly understanding of terms such as "growth machine" and that he only gave "permission to make CDs for professors who said they wanted to be there but had other committee meetings they needed to attend."
The video, however, was publicly available on the Internet. Jones said the university asks for lecturers' permission before posting their presentations on the university Web site.
White said Aigner was not directed by the Community Alliance's board to ask that the video be removed, and he said he thinks the lecture has no local relevance. White said neither he nor any of the Community Alliance's board members had watched it.
The Community Alliance has grown from 144 members last year to 198 this year, according to the organization. The organization reports it is "committed to the mission of preserving the natural environment of the Yampa Valley, enhancing the quality of life, retaining the unique character of our community and building a sustainable society in harmony with nature."
The Steamboat Pilot & Today was asked to remove the lecture video from its Web site by Nick Van Berkum, a communications specialist in the university's sociology department. The newspaper has not removed the video of Aigner's April presentation from its Web site.
"The newspaper respects the right of the university to control its intellectual property rights in the video, but in this case, the First Amendment rights of the public in having access to this newsworthy and important information outweigh any copyright interest in the video," Pilot & Today Publisher Suzanne Schlicht said. "Because of the substantial significance of the video to an ongoing matter of public concern in the Steamboat Springs community, the newspaper's decision to make this video available to its readers is protected by the 'fair use' doctrine under the federal Copyright Act."
In a Tuesday e-mail to a group of residents that was forwarded to the Steamboat Pilot & Today, Aigner wrote that the video and a newsletter advertising the lecture were never publicly available and that, "I think it took a private detective with a grudge to do the work."
The video was discovered during a Google search by a Pilot & Today reporter looking for Aigner's recent scholarly work. The Pilot & Today published the initial story about the video after being contacted by Mitsch Bush, who expressed her concern that Aigner's comments about her were false and could damage her political career.
A Department of Sociology newsletter dated March 25, 2009, advertising Aigner's presentation about Steamboat remains available under the department's "news" link.