Home > Uncategorized > Beam us in, Bonnie

Beam us in, Bonnie

arcata_granicus_streamHumboldt County has an opportunity to increase citizen involvement in local government according the recent Civil Liberties Show on KMUD.

The City of Arcata is leading the pack by using a system called Granicus which live streams City Council meetings along side the meeting agenda.  The agenda is complete with links to staff reports on individual items. (Click image to biggify.)

Supervisor Clif Clendenen is supportive of bringing similar technology to county meetings, according to Access Humboldt Executive Director Sean McLaughlin.

But host Bonnie Blackberry said the county isn’t paying enough attention to the possibilities.  She noted the challenges of Southern Humboldt residents to participate in meetings that affect them, like Planning Commission meetings.  Some residents have to travel 2-3 hours one way to attend such meetings, she said.

Blackberry and guests talked about the possibilities of using Skype or other technology that would allow people to participate via computer.  One idea is to have a place in (for example) Garberville where SoHum folks can both watch and comment during meetings.  Ultimately, people would be able to participate from home “in their underwear.”

Jan Kraepelien, who works magic for both Access Humboldt and the City of Arcata said it would cost between $10,000 – $20,000 for the county to set up the Granicus system.  The system cuts down on staff time by making so much information available online.

Supervisors meetings are currently streamed on the web, but Planning Commission meetings are not.  Both are shown live and repeated on Channel 10 — which is inaccessible to the far reaches of Southern Humboldt.  Yet any hill dweller with satellite internet could stay well informed on Arcata issues.

The door’s open,” said Blackberry.  “We just have to walk through it.”

Eureka City Council meetings are also shown live on cable access, but the sound quality is wretched.  Perhaps they should look to Arcata.

Listen to the show in the KMUD archives.  Scroll down to Wednesday May 6 @ 7pm.

The Civil Liberties Monitoring Project will host a clarification meeting to address misconceptions about the General Plan Update (like those on display at the last Planning Commission meeting) on May 22 at the Vets Hall in Garberville.

  1. Anonymous
    May 11, 2009 at 7:40 am

    This sounds great, but why not start with a phone line from Garberville to the Board chambers? The county could probably accomplish that for only $5,000, once the analysts and managers were paid, and county IT spent their requisite seven weeks to figure out where the hole should get drilled.

  2. Mr. Nice
    May 11, 2009 at 9:14 am

    That’s what I was thinking… $10 or $20 thousand ducats?

    Let’s review.

    One 80s-era terrible quality camera like the one that records the Arcata meetings: $50 at the pawn shop.

    One video input card for above camera: $50 new.

    Web hosting to accommodate video streaming: $40-$50/month.

    Programmer fee to write sophisticated hypertext public e-comment form to automatically transmit comments via modern correspondence technology known as e-mail: $5000 in-house, $50 outsourced.

    Wages for employee to scan agendas and associate sections of agenda with video: $25-$50 per meeting.

    It seems like this system should cost $10,000 in its entire lifetime as opposed to $10,000 up front.

  3. Not an Expert
    May 11, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Having online access to relevant documents would be a huge improvement for us city folk as well. Currently the way to look through documents for all but the biggest projects is to figure out which planner has the file, go to the planning dept. when that planner is there, look through the file, and ask for certain pages to be copied. All between the hours of 9-5, Mon-Fri.

    This county would be better off having more informed residents. Often, commenters at the hearings have little info and thus everyone’s time is wasted.

  4. RedHummer
    May 11, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Say what you want about Arcata politics, but the city government is way ahead of the curve in regards to transparency and making it possible for people to stay informed on city issues without wasting gas and time driving to meetings. Each city’s (Fortuna, Blue Lake, Trinidad) council meetings should be streamed and since it’s already been done Arcata’s blueprint can be easily followed. The access channel is NOT the solution, since so many people do not use sudden link, for whatever reason. Then again, it’s a lot easier to get away with shit when the public doesn’t participate in the process. Kudos to Arcata for leading the way.

  5. Mr. Nice
    May 11, 2009 at 11:11 am

    This is great but it shouldn’t cost $10,000.

  6. May 11, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Part of the idea is that the system will pay for itself by cutting down on staff time spent on answering requests for information because the info would be easily available on the city’s (or county’s) website.

  7. Mr. Nice
    May 11, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Saving staff time is a nice thought but how expensive could a piece of software that posts video along with non-OCRed PDF files and a betamax-quality video camera from the pawn shop be? $10,000?

    Anyone who has used the Arcata system has seen that it is clunky, incompatible, and cumbersome. Is that what all the extra thousands of dollars in upfront costs are for, to make the system run like crap?

  8. arcatawitch
    May 11, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    hmmm… I have to disagree, Mr. Nice. I have found the Arcata system to be quite user-friendly, and amazing. We are so fortunate to live in such a forward-looking city.

    Blessed be.

  9. Mr. Nice
    May 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Perhaps if the government outsourced some of their technology needs to competent professionals, they wouldn’t need to spend $10,000 or $20,000 on a comment form and a webcam. The federal government has taken the lead in this regard, it is time for local government to catch up.

    I am not hating on the technology, just the implementation.

  10. Anonymous
    May 11, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Does anybody else notice that certain sections of the recorded board meetings never make it to the web archive?

    Not sure if this is editing or sloppy work…

  11. Nobody But Me
    May 11, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    No county manager is going to risk being exposed as incompetent. Inviting an outsider in to do something in a day for a dollar, when the county staff would take a year and a thousand bucks, and still get it wrong… that’s just not going to happen. Unless, of course, the citizens regain control of the government, starting with the BS.

  12. Mark Lovelace
    May 11, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Actually, the County Planning Commission’s meetings are streamed online, and the staff reports are online, too. They’re just not organized as well as they could be.

    The live stream for both Board of Supervisors meetings and Planning Commission meetings is here, though that link only works while the meeting is actually under way.

    The archived video from past Planning Commission meetings is here, intermingled with the video of past Board of Supervisors meetings. Just pick on the appropriate dates for each. If it’s a Thursday, it’s the Planning Commission.

    Lastly, documents for recent Planning Commission meetings can be found here.

    It’s all there; just not in the most organized format. We’re working on it.

  13. 421
    May 11, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    maybe you could just have them link to your post here, that would probably be the best solution since the web page is a very accurate and true representation of the way this county government works. thanks for the links, good luck with the rest.

  14. May 11, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Thanks, Mark. I had no idea Planning Commission meetings were streamed live or archived online. That’s great.

  15. Lodgepole
    May 11, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    That’s the way son, earning them Benjamins.

  16. May 11, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    Through a partnership between Access Humboldt and the Internet Archive, any government meeting that goes on Access Humboldt cable tv channels can be found on the Internet Archive archive.org:

    Arcata, Eureka, Fortuna City Council & Planning Commision Meetings. Humboldt County Board of Supervisions Meetings.

    There are 90 meetings up there so far. I’ve got another 45 from 2008 & 2007 that I’ve transcoded from our DVD copies but haven’t had the bandwidth to upload yet.

    In the next week our so, we be upgrading our transcoding process so that the video and sound quality of the archive.org copies will be better.

  17. May 11, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    uggh! looks like the url didn’t make it

    go to http://www.archive.org/details.access_humboldt
    click the “Browse by Subject/Keywords” link
    click the “Government Meetings” link
    select the sort results by “Date added” link on the right hand side

  18. May 11, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    uggh! looks like the url didn’t make it

    go to http://www.archive.org/details/access_humboldt
    click the “Browse by Subject/Keywords” link
    click the “Government Meetings” link
    select the sort results by “Date added” link on the right hand side

    May 12, 2009 at 8:06 am

    The streaming is good because about 3 years ago and prior, Supervisors would have Cox Cable record over the previous meeting (on vhs tape) with the current (next) meeting. Essentially, after the replay later in the week on local television, your opportunity to view the meeting was lost. I was shocked when the head person (for conducting the recordings and replays) for Cox admitted to me what they did and WHO authorized the actions. Danny Devito says, “actors should have secrets”. Well, enough politicians are actors too with secrets.

    Jeffrey Lytle
    McKinleyville – 5th District

    May 12, 2009 at 8:09 am

    Mark is correct. I e-mailed the Supervisors a couple months back about some minor gliches and possible organizational suggestions. Mark has been very communicative thus far and has answered every e-mail I have sent to him. Thank You Mark.

    Jeffrey Lytle
    McKinleyville – 5th District

  21. May 12, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Thanks for the link. This is really a great service.

    My only suggestion would be for quicker upload time. The May 5 Eureka City Council meeting was just uploaded 17 hours ago. But Access Humboldt probably has that on a list of priorities somewhere. Keep up the great work.

    May 12, 2009 at 8:14 am

    IT techs will have most gliches resolved before too long as they get used to the system they are using and receive feedback from citizens. The Supes did a good thing by upgrading their methodology of making available public information.

    Jeffrey Lytle
    McKinleyville – 5th District

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