Lies are lies city employees

hot button issueCity Clerk Vander Clay and City Manager Richards maintain the $4,000 annual fee for video streaming the public meetings at city hall is too much to pay for government transparency. They apparently defied a council directive and decided on their own to remove our access to viewing public meetings from our homes.

City Clerk Lori Vander Clay’s legal requirements for minutes is primarily to only download.pngrecord resolutions and votes by the council, giving her a great deal of power. Informative public discourse is not recorded unless Vander Clay makes a personal decision to include it – based on her personal preferences. There are many important community issues presented at public meetings that never make it into Vander Clay’s minutes. Richards’ and Vander Clay’s decision to stop broadcasting the meetings ensure nobody but the handful of people who attend the meeting will ever hear what actually takes place at them. Lies are lies, and their decision is about retaining power because knowledge is power and has nothing to do with cost.

With new technology, live dysfunctial-teamstreaming is cheap and City Manager Richards and City Clerk Vander Clay should be trying to increase transparency not eliminate it. Below are comments from two blog readers that debunk the misinformation by city employees.

images.jpgNew Buffalo Blog reader John stated. ‘As a going on 4 year resident in NB, I really appreciate your blog. and FYI, you can easily record city council meeting with a webcam and laptop, a decent microphone and a cheap USB audio interface will give you very detailed audio. If i was doing it ( I have been a professional audio engineer for over 20 years) I use 2 different pieces of software to record it so the audio and video are saved separately, the only catch is to do it right someone would need to physically operate it , the hardware and software costs not including the laptop could be had for $1000.00 the majority cost being a decent microphone. not sure on the human cost, but you could probably find some good taxpaying Samaritan who owns all this stuff who’d do it for free……’. (As a public service, John might be very helpful)

New Buffalo Blog reader Greg stated. ‘Susan, How-live-streaming-works
they wouldn’t need media level equipment, the mics and soundboard are your biggest costs, mid-tier hardware will last years as long as it’s taken care of and the cost would not be outlandish, maybe $1000 if they shop around. The cameras shouldn’t cost more than $100 to $150 each. People are putting out HD quality content using Logitech webcams, tablets and phones. Domain registration if needed is $12 a year, hosting/storage services can be found for as low as $10 a month, cheaper if you pay annually, or Youtube or Facebook Live for basically nothing.

Below is the Youtube presentation of the Dearborn Heights Council meeting.  Note that the content of the discussions, presentations, comments, and debate would not make it to Vander Clay’s official minutes in New Buffalo.  This democracy in action allows Dearborn Heights’ citizens to view the meeting live or store it for future viewing and share on Facebook. We deserve the same amount of respect for our right to transparency. The New Buffalo City Council should gather up their courage and overrule the staff.  Do the right thing for the public.

9 thoughts on “Lies are lies city employees

  1. Susan Gotfried Post author

    I agree, most likely with today’s technology, the cost of video recording meetings is quite low but even if it cost $300 a month, aren’t the taxpayers worth it?

  2. Ray

    Maybe it’s time for a FOIA to get the “real” numbers associated with live streaming and archiving the public meetings? But, even if it was $4000.00/yr or a little over $300.00 month to stream public meetings for all city Boards and Commissions including, City Council, Planning Commission, Harbor Commission, ZBA, Parks and DDA, it would be far less than this City wastes on other trivial nonsense.

  3. Susan Gotfried Post author

    John, maybe I was wrong, maybe the employees didn’t lie about the annual $4,000 fee but they just made it up or were paying it because they didn’t bother getting competitive bids. I agree with you, there is no reason for a live feed – just post the recording the next day. Perhaps you should put this in a letter to the council members and state for a fee, you would set it up for them. I think that all citizens who cherish transparency in government would see you as a hero.

  4. John

    I think its important to make clear to your readers the cost difference between live streaming city council meetings and recording them and posting them later. while the equipment is nearly identical, you would need/want some additional live streaming software and perhaps some sort of host if you don’t want to rely on the reliability of things like You Tube and Facebook.

    To be realistic on the costs, A quality recording and live streaming set up can be had for around $1000.00 which breaking down the Microphone, Camera and applicable recording Audio and Video software. You also need a computer, a laptop is ideal for this application and under $1000 as well . This $2000 is an all in , one time charge and it is all you would need to record and post council meeting on you tube or facebook, You will of course need someone to operate it once a month and store and upload the video.

    Live Streaming incurs additional costs not only in potential additional software and hosting costs depending on your end goal, but you must have a good upload speed of at least 1.5 mbps for decent quality streaming, and upload streams are rarely consistent when you are at borderline speeds, so ideally you need something with a consistent 3-5 mbps upload speed like Comcasts’ performance internet which I have no idea what kind of internet service the town has or is willing to pay for. To properly live stream at meetings you’d want not only the equipment but ideally access to plug into their router as wireless also loses bandwidth,

    Even having said all this The number being thrown around by the city of $4000.00 yearly to “maintain the equipment” (what??)
    is a pretty big red flag that seems to me like a number someone pulled out of the Air to put people off to the idea.
    Unless of course- that is yearly service charge they are being billed by someone who is doing it for them. if that is the case- its an extremely high pay rate for whomever is doing it and it clearly wasn’t competitively bid.

    Like your example above and I dont know if that was live streamed or not but I don’t believe live streaming is necessary, New Buffalo should do what 1000’s of other small towns do and record the meeting and post them the next day on the city website while also keeping a video archive of all public meetings that can be reviewed. Not only would this be a backstop on potential errors in the minutes but it also protects city employees.

  5. Susan Gotfried Post author

    Exactly, the city employees created quite a mess with that whole situation by not reading the law or following city policies. But the minutes can be sparse and misleading – a video not so much. But hey, if it were you or I and we continued to violate laws, and we had the opportunity to keep it from the public, wouldn’t we try? That is why the city council has a legal obligation to overturn the employees who illegally decided to stop video recording meetings. The council members are required by law to vote on a policy decision at an open meeting. But if they don’t, they know our only recourse is to sue them.

  6. Chisel

    Of course if they try to okay an illegal site plan for a church parking lot, next to your residential property, it’s nice to watch the video.
    When residents within 300 are not notified, abutting neighbors letters conveniently sent to the wrong address, and promises made by the applicant are not followed, the video is the only proof you have.
    But then with no record of the event, no one would ever know, would they?

  7. Susan Gotfried Post author

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the elderly who don’t want to go out on wintery nights could continue to watch city meetings at home? Or young parents with small children could watch the meetings? Inclusiveness is the name of the game.

  8. Susan Gotfried Post author
      There are approximately 1600 full time residents in New Buffalo, not sure how many second home owners but we all have a right to view the meetings and we can’t all make it to the meetings. Unlike the city employees, I am concerned about all the residents in the city.
  9. Anonymous

    Go to the meeting if you want to know what’s going on why should wepayfor you to view at home you ate an egomaniac Susan

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