UPDATE: FEB. 5 – The Broward County Commission has directed the county administrator to prepare a cost analysis and implementation plan to create an on-line, video archive of commission meetings.
Commissioner Lois Wexler asked her fellow commissioners to act after County Administrator Bertha Henry failed to present her own plan, which Wexler asked for last month. Wexler originally asked Henry to study the issue on Oct. 8, with a Dec. 15 due date, records show.
Wexler doesn’t know why the county administrator did not follow through. “There may be an inherent resistance…to make this type of…meeting information immediately accessible to the public,” Wexler said in an interview Wednesday.
The resolution, adopted unanimously on Tuesday, calls for the plan be submitted to the commission within 60 days. Wexler said she will take the matter to the commission again if Henry fails to meet that deadline.
Wexler described the video on-demand issue as “small potatoes” compared to most matters the commissioners’ tackle. Video on-demand, however, “is a signal to the public that we are accessible and hiding nothing,” she said.
While frustrated by what she believes is Henry’s foot dragging, Wexler continues to support Henry as the county administrator. “The majority of my colleagues are very fond of her,” Wexler said. “I like Bertha very much… (Her) contract is solid…(But) I’m disappointed in the lack of leadership (on this issue).”
BrowardBulldog.org reported in October that Broward is the only county in Southeast Florida and the only major local government in Broward County that does not archive its recorded commission meetings for later on-demand viewing by the public. – William Hladky
By William Hladky, BrowardBulldog.org
Jan. 13 – Frustrated with what she perceives to be foot-dragging, Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler has told County Administrator Bertha Henry to present a plan soon on how to make video recordings of prior commission meetings available to the public on demand through the county’s web site.
Wexler said in an interview that she told Henry last week that if Henry fails to present a plan in a couple of weeks, Wexler would bypass her and bring the issue directly to her fellow commissioners for discussion and action.
Wexler’s frustration boiled after last Tuesday’s commission meeting when video-on-demand was unexpectedly and briefly discussed following a staff presentation about a new, web-based tool called Civic Engagement intended to promote public participation. Video on demand of commission meetings was not part of Civic Engagement.
Commissioner Chip LaMarca said he had received “some calls and requests” asking about archiving videos of commission meetings on the county’s web site for on-demand use.
Wexler, too, expressed support for such a system. “It is something I’ve been following up the last…three months,” Wexler told the commission. “We are one of the last counties (or) cities in Broward to be able to go to our web site (to get on demand meeting videos).”
She reminded Henry she previously requested a feasibility study “and I’m still waiting for some kind of response.”
Records show Wexler asked Henry to study the issue on Oct. 8. Although the “due date” was Dec. 15, the study had yet to be submitted.
Henry told the commission that “at some point we will bring back to you a plan for that but I really wanted to get (Civic Engagement and other) initiatives off our plate.” Henry added that archiving on-line commission meetings would “take a lot of resources” and would require ongoing staff resources.
After the commission meeting, Henry met with Wexler in the commissioner’s office. There, Wexler told Henry what she wanted.
BrowardBulldog.org reported in October that Broward is the only county in Southeast Florida and the only major local government in Broward County that does not archive its recorded commission meetings for later on-demand viewing by the public.
Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties, the Broward School Board, and 18 of 31 Broward cities – including Fort Lauderdale – provide on demand video or audio web viewing. Only Broward’s smaller municipalities lack this service. More than 85 percent of Broward’s population resides in cities that offer this on demand web service of commission or council meetings.
“I know when government drags its feet,” Wexler said in an interview. “I’m going to give it a couple of weeks and if (Henry’s proposal is not forthcoming) I’m going to put an agenda item on the dais…There is no reason why we can’t do it…This is something I really would like to see for transparency.”
Five commissioners, including LaMarca and Wexler, have indicated they support archiving videos of commission meetings and allowing on-demand web access.
In an interview, Commissioner Martin David Kiar said, “A lot of people are not at home at 10 a.m (when meetings start).…I really believe it is better for the public…to view it online any time they want.”
Commissioner Tim Ryan said, “I’m with Wexler to get it done.”
John Beckford, chief of staff to Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness, told a reporter his boss supports video on demand. “It is safe to say if the video on demand can be implemented at a reasonable cost, it is something the county should provide,” Beckford said.
LaMarca said he does not know why a county as large as Broward, with a $4 billion budget, “doesn’t have on demand TV…It is something we should be working on,” he said.
Commissioners Kristin Jacobs, Stacy Ritter and Sue Gunzberger and county Mayor Barbara Sharief did not respond to requests for comment. Ritter’s office said she was out-of-town.
Wexler dismissed the notion that setting up video on demand would be too costly.
BrowardBulldog.org reported in October that Fort Lauderdale pays Granicus, a California corporation, $2,290 a month to operate the city’s online video system. Granicus started managing the city’s system in 2012. The city’s startup cost with Granicus was $27,825.
The Broward School Board’s on-demand video system cost $12,485 to operate this year.
Henry told the commission that video copies of commission meetings are available. “We can provide it, at any time.”
Those who want a video copy of a Broward County Commission meeting must file a public records request. A DVD copy can be retrieved at county hall in downtown Fort Lauderdale or mailed. The cost is $8, plus postage if mailed.
The Broward County Commission broadcasts live regular meeting and public hearings on its web page and on cable television. The meetings are re-webcast and most of the time re-broadcast on cable once at 5:30 p.m. the Friday following the meetings.
Administrator Henry did not respond to a request for comment.