Entries Tagged 'Open Meetings' ↓

Building Collapse Video disappearing act

Friday afternoon I noticed that a new episode of Inside Town Hall appeared on the City of Sioux Falls You Tube page. It was the normal setup. City councilor Kiley had on the Director of 911, Matt Burns (SFPD) and the chief of the fire department to talk about their working relationships. The one thing I noticed when I started viewing the video was that it was 44 minutes long (most episodes are 30 minutes). While there was nothing revealing in the show itself, right at the 30 minute mark it went into a 14 minute (muted) video of the building collapse rescue efforts. There were several breaks in the video and it looked professionally shot, at one point it seemed also a drone was used (or shot from a fire truck ladder).

I gathered that this video was probably shot by City Link crew. While I commend them for doing this, it also got me thinking about a lot of other angles.

• What did it cost to have a city film crew on site for that long?

• While we won’t film parks board meetings, somehow the city found it necessary to film this event?

• Why would the city not do an investigation when they had this kind of crucial footage, which included them marking the cracks in PAVE’s wall, a crane holding up the wall, and pulling away the damaged car?

• Was the footage turned over to the insurance companies and OSHA?

• Why shoot this video (which included the rescue of the apartment dweller being pulled from the wreckage) when we don’t send a film crew to every fire rescue event?

• Were they planning on using this video as some kind of propaganda?

• And lastly, why was this posted to YouTube and now has disappeared from the site?

After watching the video, I talked openly about watching it to a group of friends at Drinking Liberally Friday night at the Taphouse. Did someone in the group (or near the table) report this back to the city?

It’s funny how transparency works in this town.

Fiscal Meeting NOT RECORDED again

There will be no camera’s, no audio and no Fancy Feast at this meeting.

Sioux Falls city council’s fiscal meeting, chaired by Councilor Erpenbach will not be recorded for a second time.

**This working session of the Fiscal Committee will be held in the Carnegie Town Hall Multipurpose Room adjacent to the Council Chambers. The working session will not be audio or video recorded.**

It really makes no sense, because they have the meeting right next to the main hall where it could be recorded. As you know from OUR recording of the last meeting, nothing ‘special’ took place in the meeting for it not be recorded and live streamed on CityLink.

I’m not sure what point Councilor Erpenbach is trying to make by not recording these meetings, but this anti-transparency movement by her, the mayor, Kiley and Rolfing is just starting to look like childish games.

UPDATE: Parks Board Meeting, Nov 5, 2016

UPDATE: If you forward to 51:00 in the meeting you will hear a bash session until almost the end of the meeting of Argus Leader, the media, and Joe Sneve. They also finish up bashing recording the meetings. This is apparently why they DON’T want these meetings recorded, because they do talk ‘freely’. Notice that it is mostly staff, Kearney, the Parks Director, doing the bashing. This proves why transparent and open government is important because of this kind of nastiness behind the scenes.

All hail the secrecy of Sioux Falls City Government! Over the last few months we have been pushing for more board and commission openness by doing videos or at least audio recordings.

The mayor’s veto of the video or audio recording of Park and Recreation Board meetings gave us a morsel of information. The board already recorded the meetings and they were available for the asking. So here is the November 15, 2016 meeting audio. We’ve added some photos of Sioux Falls park features for you to watch as you listen to the meeting.

Take not near the beginning of the meeting when the board members make comments about the lack of Public Inputers. For those of us who attend these meetings, there is a collegiality amongst the members and staff. We feel the wink, wink, nod, nod as we public outsiders watch the actions. It is very interesting to see and it does not come across the same when we video, but it is there.

Secret Meetings?

Are public notices in newspapers a waste of money? Sometimes.

As you know, I am big on open government, and public notices are important;

A bill that would allow South Dakota’s 17 largest cities to publish their public notices such as meeting minutes online instead of in the local newspaper was defeated in committee on Thursday.

HB1167 would have allowed cities with populations of more than 5,000 to publish their public notices on their websites, freeing them from the current requirement that notices be published in the local newspaper.

Rep. Greg Jamison, R-Sioux Falls, the bill’s sponsor, said the state’s larger cities are already posting their notices online, as well as broadcasting the meetings.

HB1167 “makes it so it doesn’t have to be in the newspaper,” Jamison said. “That’s the big difference here.”

While I agree alternative methods should be ‘explored’ I do agree with the SD newspaper industry – to an extent;

Justin Smith, an SDNA lobbyist, said that having a third party print the notices ensures that the government “cannot come back later and change them.”

In his work as a lawyer, Smith said, he has at times needed to check on notices published as far back as the 1950s.

“There is forever a record of that information,” Smith said. “1167 would destroy this permanent archive.”

While their arguments are fine and dandy, the issue I have with the way it is now, is that it has to be in a ‘paid subscription paper’ and the problem with our local paper is that they print it on a weekday (not as many subscribers) and in 4-point type. It should really be in the Sunday Paper in at least 6-8 pt type so people don’t have to get out a magnifying glass. I also don’t see a problem with it being in a weekly shopper that doesn’t have subscribers, it may get MORE readership. Right now, the government entities are subject to when the newspapers decide to print the notices, and that isn’t right either. Just Sayin’.

Cameraman Bruce; Ask your city government for transparency

Let’s load up the Parks office with requests for DVD’s of the meetings;

The mayor’s veto rationale has an interesting twist; he admitted the meetings are recorded and currently available if the public asks for them. So, I recommend all citizens of Sioux Falls request DVD recordings of all city boards and commissions meetings not currently posted. The mayor says they are available, so let’s all ask for them, as Argus Leader reporter Joe Sneve has done. Confirm they are furnished free of charge, just as they were furnished to Sneve.

Transparency in government would be significantly enhanced by a new ordinance providing for video recordings of city department board meetings archived online. The absence of such a policy serves only to reinforce a perception of a veil of secrecy over the Sioux Falls administration thwarting the citizen’s right to know what their government is doing.

Transparency is NOT a slippery slope, in fact it should be an easy hike in the country side.

Hey Stupid! Transparency is for us, NOT for you.

Not sure if you watched the bizarre testimony from Parks Board members and the ‘Patsy III’ at the city council meeting last night, but they certainly don’t have a clue what open meetings and open government is about. One of the reasons I chose NOT to testify last night is because I knew it was going to be ludicrous display of ignorance when it comes to transparency in government, and they did not disappoint.

Besides Councilor Erpenbach claiming the board members will be berated in videos because she has been (to tell you the truth, I have never attended a Parks Board Meeting, and only know the names of two of the members, and the videos we have posted so far has never questioned the discussion of the members, but more the actual parks staff).

But the Parks Board Members made it about ‘them’ in their testimonies. Besides the fact I found it a bit ironic that the same people who say they are afraid of talking in front of public cameras, stood in front of cameras at a public meeting to tell us they are scared of those cameras, they missed the entire point of recording the meetings. It is for their benefit protecting them from decisions they may make from bad advice of staff. And if you don’t think Parks Staff can cook up a good BS casserole, just watch the advocational sessions before the pool vote, where they concocted more stories then you can shake a dolphin at.

But it is really about something bigger. Serving the citizens of this great city on a volunteer government board should be taken seriously, and just because you are not elected, you are appointed by an elected official (the mayor) and open and transparent government should be of highest concern. In fact a simple question on the board application form could be added, “Would you be comfortable with being recorded during your meeting proceedings?” If you answer NO, then guess what, you don’t get the job.

Open government isn’t about THOSE who serve, it’s about WHO you serve, the public. And we have a right to know how our money is being spent, whether that is advisory or not. This is our government, we own it. It seems very elitist to me that a board member may think they are so important due to their ‘volunteerism’ that they don’t have to tolerate open and transparent government or any kind of oversight. I would say to those who want to serve that are opposed to those basic democratic ideals to simply not apply and take up a membership in Toasters.

As for the mayor, as an elected official to VETO this, well that’s just plain stupid. And if he decides to run for higher office, he will be reminded quite often of his intolerance to transparency.

Government Secrecy in closed settlements serves no one

Ellis says something I try to bang in people’s heads all the time, it’s your money, you are the boss;

Put aside the corruption issue. It’s a matter of good government. And good government is about understanding who the boss is. And the boss is you, the taxpayer.

YOU pay the money that gets secretly negotiated away in these confidential settlements to who knows who for who knows what. It’s YOU, the taxpayer, who pays the salaries of the public officials who negotiated the confidential settlements. They work for YOU, not the other way around. And besides the potential for abuse, confidential settlements also allow government officials to hide their incompetence from you, the employer. What if the government is negligent in some matter? They can hide it from the taxpayer with a confidential settlement.

You can bet that when Jamison’s bill gets its hearing, the defenders of this practice will argue that confidential settlements give local governments leverage to negotiate better deals. That they save taxpayer money.

They can say it all they want. But you know what they can’t do? Prove it.

That has been my argument for ages. They tell us it must be secret, but they can’t tell us why. Because if they did, a lot of them would be in jail.

Mayor Huether only concerned about transparency when it comes to him

Howdy Doody lays it down!

Funny how Mike only cares about transparency when it comes to him,

The council’s reasoning on the Parks Board ordinance is transparency, but Mayor Huether says, that’s what’s missing from their decision to donate the Ice and Rec Center.

“Where have been the work sessions on this and the meetings with the public or even the meetings with the executive branch of government,” questioned Huether.

But, of course once again, he stretches the truth. The Glory House idea was first raised this Summer by councilor Starr, then in October he told city directors he was serious about the matter, but they just ignored him. The mayor tries to claim no one tells him anything, ironically it is always things he is opposed to. See a trend?

What is the cost to follow the Mayor around with a camera?

Theresa Stehly mentioned on B-N-B show this morning that she requested the amount it costs to follow the mayor around with a camera for press conferences and Listening & Learning sessions. The finance director could not give her a solid number saying they really don’t keep track (in other words buried in the CityLink/Media budget.
Huether fancies himself as a great and prudent businessman. He has a director of finance (Turbak) who pretends to know what he is doing controlling the town’s cash. This director of the cash doesn’t know the cost of videoing the mayor’s events?
An astute businessman would know how much it costs to:
  1. buy all the equipment needed
  2. send a guy out with a camera
  3. return to the office to upload
  4. store the recordings
  5. how much it costs to replace the equipment as it wears out
They both complain about the cost of recording but had no idea how much it would cost? This proves how bad the city finance system is when they do not understand the basics of cost centers. This is actually a very easy number to generate. To a real cost accountant, this could take minutes to figure out. As for a guy who has worked in the media business for over 20 years, if I had to do a quick educated guess, just to record the press conferences and L & L sessions, it would be well over $100,000 a year. This does not include the entire CityLink budget OR the independent contract hosts like Madeline and Jolene.
There is a strong belief the lack of recordings is not a cost issue or to protect the board members. This effort to stop recordings is to protect city staff from being recorded giving bad advice the board members have to follow. There is no attempt to protect the members only city employees. Our videos show this time and time again.