Note: I was partially quoted in this story, my full quote and question answered at the bottom.
Rowena Coetsee of the Contra Costa Times put out a story today that states the Oakley Content to Keep Council Meetings Offline which essentially tries to pit Oakley residents against the city council. The reality is the demand is just not there for video and its likely not very cost effective to implement.
Rather than live video, a better solution would be to record the meeting and simply post the audio on the city website (or ITunes) afterwards for people to download. By having these audio recordings available for download, the city can then gauge the interest for future decisions on video.
If the demand is there, then invest in high quality video equipment. But to act on what a very small percentage want is irrational and not a good use of city funds.
The article stated the City purchased approximately $111,000 of audiovisual equipment which does not produce “broadcast quality”. Okay, so why not hold the vendor accountable to make it broadcast quality? That is the single best solution I can think of. If they provide bad equipment, it’s on the vendor to fix it. Not taxpayers.
I have 100% faith that if a demand was actually there, this council would televise the meetings and place a recording on the internet in a second. But the bottom line is there is no point in upgrading or re-purchasing equipment to satisfy the self-serving needs of less than 25 people in a town of nearly 36,000.
The article focused on how Oakley was among six of the 19 cities in Contra Costa Times who does not use the internet or television to publicize the council meetings—that is 31% who are offline. If the percentage was lower, I’d be more concerned.
Paul Seger was quoted as saying, “It’s absolutely the best thing that the City Council can do if they want people to regain trust in them.”
If public trust was truly broken, you would have far more demands for increased transparency than a handful of people that I can count on my fingers versus the other 35,000 people in Oakley. If trust was truly broken, more people would be showing up to council meetings and speak on this issue to the council during public comments.
This was nothing more than a blanket statement that is untrue which essentially says “do this or people won’t trust you”.
Chuck Varnado made the statement, “The main reason I have not been attending regularly in the last few years is because it is a hassle to have to go to City Hall at 6:30 p.m., but if I could watch from the convenience of my home, I would for sure!”
A recording would be sufficient for people like Mr. Varnado because if 6:30 is inconvenient, they could download the MP3 and listen at any point before the next council meeting.
I tend to side with Mayor Frazier and Councilwoman Anderson that showing up in person is more impactful. If you really want something, you have to become engaged and make an effort—you can’t really do that from your own home or via email.
The most interesting part of the story to me was the breakdown “for” and “against” going live. Again, the way the story was written, I believe the council against would “go live” if the demand was there.
The article was balanced as it had Councilmembers Jim Frazier, Pat Anderson, and Kevin Romick against it. Meanwhile councilman Randy Pope was for broadcasting the meetings along with local residents Paul Seger, Chuck Varnado, and I.
Where was Carol Rios? Four of five councilmembers respond including the City Manager—Ms. Rios was absent. It would be interesting to see which side she supports. But it does appear the way the story was written is you have three councilmembers against one.
Here is what was Roweena posted on Oakley Watchdog Facebook Group
I’m working on a story about the fact that Oakley is one of only a few cities in Contra Costa County that don’t post videotapes of their council meetings online or broadcast them. What are your thoughts? Is it critical for residents who don’t/can’t attend these meetings to be able to access the proceedings by computer and TV? Please call or email me if you’d like to weigh in.
I took the bait and issued a response based off the portion of a live system being “critical” where only a portion of my quote was used. Here is my full quote I sent back via email.
“It’s not critical it streams live, but it’s absolutely critical the meetings are posted on the website within 48-hrs to promote transparency and provide convenience for Oakley residents who are unable to attend. The city paid good money for a system in 2008 that did not work; the vendor who is the expert should be held accountable to fix it rather than invest more money in something new which essentially double bills the Oakley taxpayer”
With the demand where it’s at, a simple recording can be posted a day or two later which promotes transparency. If something is an issue, one should get their butts down to City Hall and participate rather than attempt to do so remotely.
CC Times Article: Oakley Content to Keep Council Meetings Offline