Council at the movies

Thanks to a volunteer initiative by Citizen V (for “Video” — anonymity requested for now), we’re exploring the subject of presenting council meetings via YouTube. It’s an experiment, V says, “to help improve community engagement.”

The timing of council meetings — 10 a.m., 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month — is not the best for working folks. (We tried evenings in the past, and attendance was even lower.) So now anybody can dial in after the fact, to see and hear the discussions.

Three council meetings are up so far. Here are the links, with their hot issues:

  • Jan. 27, 2015 — dog poo; huge paving project in PRNPR.
  • Jan. 13, 2015 — Industrial Way signage; staff earthquake report. [One comment: “Best reality show going. Gripping.”]
  • Dec. 9, 2014 — siting of Weeping Cedar Woman; LBL water bill; Community Hall use policy; 2 variance permits.

View counts on these three meetings, as of today, are 92, 91 and 117 — numbers i find surprisingly high. Even hypothetically dividing by three to account for multiple views by the same person, that’s still about 30 individual viewers per meeting. Full house in council chambers (rarely achieved) is just 20 seats. Imagine the pandemonium if 117 people showed up!

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Local pundits sometimes speak of citizen participation as a full house at every council meeting. I’m of two minds about this, mainly because council meetings are mostly pretty dull. They involve a lot of administrative detail, which is important in the day-to-day running of the town’s business, but are arguably not the best use of a dozen or two audience members’ mornings, unless there’s a significant issue being discussed.

So the video approach gives another way to stay informed. A friend of mine starts the video and has it running while she works, listening to the audio in the background. When she hears something interesting, she pays attention. That way she gets work done but doesn’t waste spend two (or three or four) hours on the meeting. She saves her participation time and energy for the Town Halls and Open Houses, when it is important to get lots of people out.

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Posting these videos is not a trivial task. Citizen V lugs his equipment to council chambers, sets it up and sits through the whole meeting. Then he takes it home, down-samples the file and uploads it to YouTube (no speedy task in Tuff). Plus V goes the extra mile and actually time indexes the whole freaking video by issue, so viewers can easily jump to a particular item. I salute him for that!

Citizen V hopes to continue the experiment, developing more of a track record to gauge townsfolk interest. I’m posting here to get word out, so more Tofitians know about the project. Check out a vid (or not), and comment below (or on Facebook) to say whether you’d use it or not, and whether for whole meetings or just for select issues.

Author: Greg Blee

Poster to my own blog, and others.

2 thoughts on “Council at the movies”

  1. But if you DO come to a live meeting, here are a couple of bonus tips:
    1: It’s okay to come late and/or leave early. Delegations (often the most interesting) happen early. Other issues arise per the agenda, which is always publicly available beforehand and at the meeting.
    2: I’m told that if there are snacks (occasionally provided, not at taxpayer expense), they’re not just for council and staff, they’re up for grabs by everybody. Nom-nom, citizens!

  2. Looks great. Just one note, you can stream live to YouTube.

    The live stream is the preserved on YouTube. This removes all the in between activities from citizen V. However, Tofino’s Internet has been known to be a little slow, so might result in a few frames being dropped. Might be worth a try.
    You can still time stamp it afterwards by simply typing the time in the video info box on YouTube. Eg. “3:26 – Dog Poo” – these numbers then automatically turn into a link that forwards the viewer to that time.

    Also, you could try a google hangout at the same time so then people could raise issues in live mode and thus don’t even need to leave the house (in true Tofino style) Just wait til that lightening speed Internet comes!!

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