Friday, March 19, 2010

Correction on Council Meeting Replays

In this item posted just yesterday, Side spoke of recent inability to find municipal meeting replays as we had done in the past, and wondered out loud whether it was part of a larger effort to reduce “transparency.”

Happily for all concerned, that suggestion was entirely inappropriate, and we hereby correct the record and apologize for the innuendo.

A studious and tech savvy loyal reader contacted our offices to tell us that the meeting replays, which were formerly scheduled events, are now available “on demand,” which makes their viewing far more convenient and agreeable.  It brings the replay experience much more in line with TIVO or DVR capability, as you can advance, pause, replay, etc. Our compliments to all involved in making this advance.

A description of the new approach is provided here.  This is an excerpt of the instructions provided there:


Brunswick Municipal Meetings are now available to watch on you home computer at your convenience.

If a meeting is available for VOD, you will see the word '(view)' at the end of the listing on the schedule. For instance, to find a Town Council meeting, search for 'Town Council'. Locate the meeting for the date you want to watch, and click on 'view'. You will receive the meeting on your computer.

To try out the new feature, I summonsed up the council meeting from this past Monday, March 15, 2010.  Sure enough, it worked.  You can save yourself a bit of searching by clicking on the link below:

In the window on that page, you should see a “Show Detail” window with a “watch now” link.  On my computer, clicking on that caused the meeting replay to open in a Windows Media Player window, and I was given complete control of the viewing process.  Besides using the typical forward and reverse arrows, I could click on the time slider immediately below the video to move quickly back and forth in the meeting.

Go to 2:29 minutes of the meeting to see the discussion on limiting public speaking.  You’ll see the time stamp in the lower left change to tell you where you are in the recording.

Watching the discussion provides an interesting view of council thinking on the public speaking process.  The notion of possibly eliminating the option was mentioned, at least in passing, but did not seem to draw much interest.

“Taking care of the people’s business first” was the concept promoted.  Those in support feel it’s better to have two or three “public commenters” wait 2-3 hours to speak to a weary council, rather than expect all others to wait 10 or 15 minutes more for their formal agenda item.

Mention of “how they do it in other towns” was also made, and this is always a popular concept.  It’s also loaded, because there are “other towns” where officials actually converse with those who show up to offer public comment, and even take the bold step of responding to citizen questions.  In this town, “public comment” is a one way conversation, other than “thank you” when you finish.

Not to mention that other towns get by with a tax rate far lower than ours, but no one wants to discuss that.

You can decide whether or not those who support moving public comment to the end of the meeting are trying to all but eliminate it while claiming they support the option.  As one who has spoken during this comment period as much as anyone, Side’s view is not unbiased in the matter.

But we will say this.  Thinking this will not have a chilling effect on non-agenda public comment is naive.  This town is virtually devoid of meaningful discourse and exchange on the important issues of the day. 

Council meetings are conducted in a way that severely limits true open discourse from the council; the vast multitude of local residents feel it’s futile to come before the council for any purpose, and are unwilling, for any number of reasons, to voice their opinions and concerns by other means, such as writing to the print media.  How cramping one of the few remaining instances of open comment will make things better is beyond us.

There was one other interesting comment; a councilor mentioned “holding a workshop on how to blog” as an alternative to the public comment option.  We trust he was serious about this, because if he wasn’t, it would be sarcasm, and we all know how  unbecoming that can be in a public setting, especially when a ‘public servant’ is the spokesperson.

Such cheap and tawdry theatrics should be reserved for more appropriate and dignified “outlets.”

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