streaming piles

According to a RichmondHill staff report streaming of town meetings is viewed as a means of assuring accountability, transparency and accessibility in keeping with the town’s strategic plan to create “stronger connections in Richmond Hill”. You can read more in this Metroland piece here: http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/5469102-livestreamed-richmond-hill-council-meetings-attracting-viewers/

Not only has Richmondhill enhanced their streaming service, they plan to include the monitor views of presentations and motions.

Monday night their town council agreed to cover all council and committee meetings, including budget committee of the whole, committee of the whole, formal council meetings, council public and special council meetings — all held in the council chambers — at a cost of about $6,000 for 2015.

The article references Aurora as providing both livestreaming and archived videos of specific meetings.

Let’s explore how that’s going.

Richmondhill is reporting viewership ranging from 27 to 662 online viewers.

Although Aurora’s numbers have yet to be disclosed I’m going to assume they are lower, and this is for a variety of reasons.

To date the streaming service has been implemented as poorly as the town’s website roll-out. Viewers often complain about it not being turned on for meetings or that it freezes and drops out.

Given all the headaches I’ve given up on streaming entirely and instead opt to view meetings at a time that is more convenient over on the Town’s YouTube channel which, consistent with the town’s strategic plan, is named “Townofaurora2012” :

https://www.youtube.com/user/Townofaurora2012

A cursory view will show the channel populated with videos, but how watchable are they?

The March 3rd meeting ends abruptly after only 11 minutes in length:

There were power flickers in the town that night which may be a cause of such video glitch but no explanations are given in the video description.

Surely town hall has Universal Power supplies and power generators to mitigate a power fluctuation. No doubt the recording can be set to auto resume on power loss or failing that a staff member could check and reset manually.

This isn’t an isolated incident. A day earlier was a budget meeting stops after 2
hours:

I initially thought this was because the upload hit a YouTube limit of 2 hours but the Public Planning – February 25, 2015 is over 3 hours in length:

So what’s the deal here? Over one and a half weeks later and no one could be bothered to upload part 2 of this video?

Unlike Richmondhill the Town of Aurora’s YouTube channel is nowhere close to being considered a means of assuring accountability, transparency and accessibility.

Aurora does not claim to share Richmondhill’s strategic plan to create stronger connections but how exactly does this video archive achieve an “exceptional quality of life for all”?

How does it reflect a high service level for a $600,000/yr spend on communications?

If Aurora’s streaming and YouTube video viewership is low it isn’t due to lack of interest, it is due to poor execution and what appears to be a total lack of management.

This needs to be addressed by council before proceeding with a council motion to extend video streaming and recording of town committees.

Last term there was concern raised at the council table with respect to members of committees being recorded/broadcast. Here is a link to the Auroran article from September 11, 2013: http://www.newspapers-online.com/auroran/?p=3845

Mayor Dawe is quoted:

“There might be members of committees right now that don’t wish to be televised for some reason or another. I think that should be part of [the committee’s] terms of reference for next term.”

Councillor Michael Thompson expressed a similar view:

“I tend to side with the comment that there might be committee members who object to the live streaming. It wasn’t part of their terms of reference and they didn’t sign up for it and they might be uncomfortable. I would think the appropriate time to revisit this really is the beginning of next term when you can make this a condition of being a committee member.”

Okay so seeing as how the committees this term were recently formed I inquired with both the Mayor and Clr. Thompson as to exactly what action was taken to revise the Terms of Reference for that resolves this issue.

Here was the response I received:

Just confirmed with the Clerk that this is indeed accounted for, as all of our Terms of References are subject to the Town’s Procedural Bylaw, which provided for Committee meetings being streamed.

However, it is not as clear as it could be, so all those who have been appointed to a committee will be individually advised and the Terms of Reference documents will be revised prior to future committees being selected.

Not as clear as it could be?

Terms of Reference documents will be revised prior to “future committees”, so not for another 4 year cycle?

Why were the T.O.R. for the committees this term not updated with crystal clear terms that addressed this issue requiring members to be “individually advised”.

Someone obviously fumbled the ball on their way to slam dunk another “exceptional quality of life for all” play.

Way to go Executive Team!

Regardless it looks like the provisions for committee meetings being streamed are now covered in the procedural bylaw so that this time if someone brings up committee members being uncomfortable with being recorded the excuse can be exposed for the bullshit it is.

Can streaming be done?

One only has to look at RichmondHill to find the answer.

Yet here in Innovative Aurora residents are forced to wade through the steaming piles the Town’s Communication Department shovels at us, like this 19 second video of the Town’s GC Meeting of February 25th dealing with the Water and Wastewater Budget

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2 thoughts on “streaming piles

  1. How about investigating with Ottawa?

    Ottawa has all council meetings streamed live on their website and committee meetings via audio only.

    All of these members (both councillors and some residents depending on the committee) are at least heard as the meeting goes on. I’m sure the town probably:

    1. Has an AV system that could be transported to the room, set up and stream it out over the internet.

    2. Has an existing AV system in the committee rooms that could easily be hooked up.

    I think for Ottawa’s council meetings Rogers even provides the feed for the city website’s streaming complete with all the camera angles. So if Rogers is at Aurora for whatever council meeting, they can easily do it. If Rogers isn’t there (because in the past they have said they don’t have the resources to do special council meetings or council in committee) then use the existing livestream with the single angle as is currently.

    It seems the town coms department doesn’t want to do this and has only done the minimal so far because council has pushed them. They seem like a 4 year old told to clean their room. They’ll wine about it (read: excuses left right an centre about logistics and inflated costs) and only do the bare minimum. Council needs to push them again with very poignant questions about how other Ontario municipalities are able to do it (e.g. Richmond Hill, Ottawa, Toronto, etc.) while Aurora seems like a laggard. Only then with coms department present the facts.

  2. Thanks for the Ottawa perspective, I agree 100% with your take. I know for certain that committee meetings are audio recorded by the meeting secretary. These audio records are held by the town as .mp3 files and provided to committee members upon request. Why are they so coveted? At the very minimum these records could be uploaded to the town’s website beside the minutes until the more technically challenging process of figuring how to implement an AV set-up can be achieved.

    Rolling out a website (which wasn’t even built in house) was a challenge, basic understanding of QR codes are a challenge, creating user surveys are a challenge, uploading video to YouTube is a challenge, reviewing content before it goes to the town’s website is a challenge, understanding which radio station to broadcast on in a crisis is a challenge, acknowledging that WordPress is a content management system is a challenge…..at some point a department of 4 full-time staff that costs $600,000 should be able to overcome these challenges and deliver a high level of service.

    And at some point our elected officials should hold them accountable.

    That point is now, at budget time when the town is facing a 5% tax increase.

    You want to get things done, then stop rewarding the underachievers and replace them with resources that have demonstrated sustainable and innovative approaches to engage with residents.

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