Commissioners Should Archive Meeting Videos

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I am a parent of school age kids, a small business owner and an active PTA member. Juggling responsibilities makes it difficult to attend as many government meetings as I would like. Even making the time to watch the live feed from the comfort of home is not always possible. I am not alone. With the school year starting soon my time and the time of most young families in our county will be taken up by afterschool activities, sports and family.

Providing opportunities for residents to be more engaged and better informed is a good thing. It should be a goal of all of our government leaders.  Since the reduction in the number of County Commissioner meetings it can take up to two weeks for minutes to be approved and posted. The latest minutes posted online are from July 18.

On August 10th I started a petition requesting the following –

Currently the Kent County website has a live feed of the County Commissioner meetings but no video archive is available. You have to watch the feed while the meeting is happening. The County Commissioners and IT Department should provide a video archive that is available on the Kent County website. With the recent reduction of monthly County Commissioner meetings it would seem that it would not be an additional workload to continue to provide written minutes of these meetings in addition to a video archive.

Rock Hall provides a live stream and video archive. Their fee is $150 per month. Chestertown has a consultant record and post meetings on YouTube. I believe the consultant’s fee runs around $100 per month. Kent County is currently paying around $200 per month for just live streaming.

What was once considered a courtesy is becoming the standard.  More than half of all Maryland counties provide written minutes as well as a video archive or link to a YouTube channel on their websites – Talbot, Queen Anne’s, Harford, Allegheny, St. Mary’s, Anne Arundel, Howard, Baltimore, Montgomery, Washington, Calvert, Wicomico.  And two counties in Maryland provide written minutes as well as audio archive on their websites – Cecil and Garrett.

Last night I made my request in person at the County Commissioners meeting. They said they would consider it. If you would like to join me in my request please sign the petition at https://goo.gl/4fxybJ

Francoise Sullivan
Kent County

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Letters to Editor

  1. Robbi Behr says:

    Hear, hear! I have the same problem – my time for keeping up with issues tends to happen between 10pm and midnight when no meetings are happening! I do hope the Commissioners follow suit and approve your request for video archives. Petition signed, and thank you for putting it together.

  2. Robbi Behr says:

    Also, just in case there’s a question, anyone who says the written minutes are enough transparency should know that when I spoke last week, it was listed in the minutes as such:
    “Robbi Behr aired some of her grievances to the Commissioners regarding Economic Development and Education in Kent County.” It doesn’t say that I wanted them to correct the record that they’ve been telling everyone that 42% of our budget goes to education (compared to a state average of close to 50) and that it’s actually closer to 38%. No correction to the record has been made, that I can tell.

  3. I believe we need to have the video recordings in order for busy people to really be able to participate in our local government. The meeting notes are incredibly abbreviated, often show bias, and barely touch on specific things that happen in the Commissioner meetings.
    Parents usually need to focus on dinnertime and homework at the time when most meetings take place, so they miss a lot of what gets discussed that is relevant to the community and schools. The live stream is great, but only for those who are available to watch while the meeting is happening. And, unfortunately, a lot of audio is missed if someone speaks from the back of the room. I have been watching the live stream when a Commissioner addressed someone in the back of the room, and their response was completely inaudible, but very relevant to the issue being discussed.

    I believe that in order to have true transparency, we need to keep a video archive.

  4. I personally go to all of the County Commissioner meetings. And there are quite a few times that I would like to refer back to something that was presented or said at the meeting. While the minutes give a summary, they don’t give specific words or phrases… nor can they describe the context or nuances of the spoken word… nor do they describe a participants body actions or reactions. Plus… the minutes aren’t approved until two weeks later, because of the switch to two-a-month meetings.

    Also, I believe that a full video of the meetings would greatly enhance the public’s awareness as to how well our county is managed by the commissioners and the county staff.

    Thanks, Francoise, for making the request.

  5. Gren Whitman says:

    Nothing is as effective in making a point as having a verbatim transcription of what was actually said or acted upon in a public meeting.
    Sometimes inflections, expressions, and body language are telling as well.
    Archived videotapes of Council meetings are being used to good effect in Rock Hall!

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