After enduring a wait of nearly a year for approval by official resolution, video streaming services company Michael Pollock International, Inc. will begin broadcasting village board meetings over the Internet on Monday, June 19, 2006.
Mr. Pollock—also the founder of Ossining.com—approached the village (see: “Croton: A Village On Demand?”) early last year with a proposal that mirrored a broadcasting and video archiving agreement his company has with the Town of Ossining. Appearing at a work session (see: “Video Stream Rebooting…”) with village officials last year, Mr. Pollock described his program—that would simultaneously stream regularly scheduled board meetings from the village’s website and create an on-demand library of past meetings with links to their corresponding agendas. But after brief consideration, the Republican-controlled majority led by Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt expressed no interest and sidelined the proposal.
Apparently then—and now—both Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt and Trustee Brennan are more concerned with the costs of the service than other benefits to Croton residents as outlined by Mr. Pollock and Democratic Trustees Gallelli, Kane and Wiegman.
Currently, meetings of the Village Board of Trustees can only be viewed by Cablevision television subscribers—leaving residents with satellite services, for example, without access from their homes. The only other way to watch meetings is to visit the Croton Free Library and check out the one VHS copy that is available sometime after the original broadcast. So now with the village committed to spending a mere $175.00 per month for a world-wide distribution platform, no resident in or away from Croton will ever be without access to the affairs of local government.
Further, Ms. Gallelli added, “its going to increase the transparency of local government a great deal. It’s going to be a very positive thing.”
Although Trustee Thomas Brennan voted in favor of the proposal, he remains apprehensive, and only seems to see the initiative in the short term as he indicated by saying, “I’m approaching this as a pilot type of program to see if the cost is worth the viewership.” Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt delivered a mixed message to residents when he began by saying, “I think its great. It’s a step to bring more people to board meetings then followed up later by saying, “we are going to kind of look at this as a test project.”
Ironically, if the cost-conscious decision-makers of last year had acted sooner, they could have signed a contract for $50.00 per month less, and saved the Village $600.00 a year.
Option: Download and watch this video clip of “On-Demand Internet Delivered Video of Village Board Meetings Now a Reality for Croton Residents” from the Village Board meeting on June 5, 2006, in Quicktime format (04:52 min. | 6.5 mb).
Village Manager Rick Herbek: “WHEREAS, The Village Board would like to begin videostreaming the regular Village Board Meetings in order to increase the public access to its meetings; and
WHEREAS, the meetings would be videostreamed live and the prior meetings would also be available on the Village website; and
WHEREAS, the Village has received a proposal from Michael Pollock of Ossining.com Video Services; and
WHEREAS, the cost of each meeting is $175/meeting and this amount was approved for the 2006-07 fiscal year annual budget,
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: that the Village Manager is authorized to sign the proposal with Ossining.com Video Services,
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: that this amount will be charged to account # 1010.400.”
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “Ok. For the motion. Thank you Trustee Wiegman. Second by Trustee Gallelli. Discussion? I think this is great. It’s a step to bring more people hopefully to the board meetings.”
Trustee Charlie Kane: “This will bring more people into the process Mr. Mayor. Ah, just a few tings here; residents at work will be able to dial up their internet connection or their high speed connection—“
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “Oh, I hope their bosses don’t find out about that but—“
Trustee Charlie Kane: “If you’re on vacation, you can do the same thing. Our residents that have satellite dishes now are not served by the local cable channel. They will be able to have access to our exciting board meetings. So, I think that this is great.”
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “And I think ah, we are going to kind of look at this as a test project. Ah, because I think Mr. Pollock can supply us with the information about how many people are actually using it so that we can see what value it has and then, you know, at that point move forward into the future. Do you, would you like to say anything to us at this time? This is, this is Mr. Pollock.”
Michael Pollock: “Hi, thank you for having me down here. And thank you for taking a serious look at this because this is great. Again there are a lot of resident who are at home and they want to choose to have satellite TV instead of cable TV—and if they have satellite TV, then they can’t access the board meetings on TV. So, this is a great way to open up the board meetings. It also says a lot to the about the board because we’re going to be archiving these—so you are going to be held to your word. And you have to have a high level of integrity to be able to do that so. That’s great that you all decided to go with this. If anybody has any questions, my email address is mike AT Ossining DOT com, my phone number is 432-8623—if you have any technical questions. We hope to go live at the next board meeting.”
Trustee Ann Gallelli: “I um, just wanted to add that I am very enthusiastic about this and I think that one of the things that is good about it is that ah, all of the meetings, its on-demand. I mean, between the archives and anytime that you feel you want to sit down and watch a village board meeting ah, on your computer, you can you know. And it’s going to increase the transparency of village government a great deal, so it’s going to be a very positive thing. I’d just like to note that here we are doing video streaming and today, in the paper, there was an article about the town of Rye just having come to the decision that they will televise the meetings so, once again, we are out there.
Trustee Leo Wiegman: “How many prior village board meeting are we going to be uploading? We haven’t settled on that.”
Trustee Charlie Kane: “We could discuss that.”
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “We could discuss that.” Trustee Leo Wiegman: “It says here that prior meeting would also be available. In other words from the next meeting onward, they would be captured by Ossining.com for video streaming and from that point forward, those meeting would be available?”
Michael Pollock: “That’s correct.”
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: [crosstalk] “Those are the ones that will be archived.”
Trustee Thomas Brennan: “I’d just like to go on record as saying I’m approaching this as a pilot type of program to see if the cost is absolutely worth the viewer ship and the streamers that we’ll actually have out there. And I agree with everything everybody’s saying and I’m gonna vote for this apprehensively just ah, because I think its cost prohibitive otherwise but we’ll see how it goes and I’ll welcome it with open arms if it truly is used as they say it will be.”
Michael Pollock: “In Ossining, maybe we started out with five people watching the live—now we are up to about twenty people watching every single meeting. But, the more popular item is the archive files. So, we get, I don’t know the numbers but ah, more people watch the archives than the live. I think the reason why is because a lot of people watch it during the day. And we also have the new feature in there where you can fast forward to different parts so people like that too. They can go right to the resolution that they are looking for. Ok. Thank you.”
Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt: “We look forward to working with you. Ok.”