Ocean Springs mayor vetoes restrictive film ordinance

Karen Nelson, Sun Herald

Mayor Connie Moran on Monday vetoed a film ordinance that city aldermen passed last week, saying she wants to back up, let city leaders hear from the state’s film industry and give Ocean Springs a chance to review aspects of the ordinance that some consider overbearing and bureaucratic.

The 11-page law caused a ruckus on social media with accusations that city leaders were anti-business and anti-film.

Moran said it was not the Board of Aldermen’s intent to shut down the film industry in Ocean Springs.

Alderman Mike Impey, who helped draft the ordinance, agreed. He said he has no problem with the veto and taking another look at the law.

“Maybe I could have approached it differently,” he said. “Lesson learned.”

He said he used a model film ordinance from the California Film Commission as a base for it.

“I don’t want to kill the golden goose, so to speak,” he said. “The more films here, the better.”

He said the city needed something for dealing with film requests. It had been using its events application, which didn’t really apply to the circumstances.

Reaction to the ordinance was swift and pointed, calling the move government overreach.

Impey said, “I went online, probably shouldn’t have, and read some of the comments. Goodness gracious. I’ve been called some things. Name calling certainly doesn’t benefit anyone.”

Aldermen passed the ordinance unanimously, late in the board meeting on April 21.

“There was little discussion. It’s a long ordinance, and there was no time to digest it,” Moran said.

She said the city would like to streamline the process of working with film and didn’t intend to shut out the industry.

Alderman John Gill said he would like to listen to the film industry, and “get their comments and input before I make any changes.”

The ordinance required a permit whether the film crew was on public or private property. It had a permit cost of $200 and a fine. It exempted news and school projects, but required film crews to give two weeks notice in advance and disclose details on the nature of the project. It wanted revealed anything that might cause public alarm, including pyrotechnics and the use of animals, and restricted filming hours, especially in neighborhoods.

Moran said concerns include freedom of speech, the risk of shutting out low-budget films and regulating filming on private property. Restricting hours of filming wouldn’t work either, she was told.

When all is said and done, she said, the city might want to look at having a small film commission of its own and a liaison to better connect with crews.

Alderman Chic Cody said the ordinance wouldn’t have become law for 30 days. Other options, beside a veto, would have been to call a special meeting of the aldermen to consider rescinding the ordinance or wait until the next regular board meeting to address it, he said.

Either way, he said, it’s clear the ordinance needs work, and he thinks it will take the skills of a lawyer to fix it. There may be areas of it that can’t be corrected, he said.

He said the city didn’t have experience with this type ordinance and did the best it could.

He said the comments about it from the film community will help them come up with a more workable law.


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