Diana Broomell: Do the Commissioners Really Think Televised Meetings Would Cost Nearly a $1-M the first year?

This post from Commissioner Candidate Diana Broomell came in after we wrote a piece about how we’re streaming Elkton Town Meetings.  Because it generated reader reaction, we decided to elevate the timely comment to the top of the blog.  We too are advocates for as much transparency in government as possible, so we also didn’t want it to get buried in the dozens of comments that keep coming in about how the charter group is financing its campaign.

Comments from Diana Broomell ————————-. 

Do the Commissioners really think we’re going to believe Scott Mesneak’s report regarding the cost of televising commissioner meetings? ($675,000 for the startup and $200,000 to $300,000 to maintain the system.)

Scott, which counties did you research? We don’t have to create a network like Harford County.

A cheaper alternative is setting up voice-activated cameras and live streaming the broadcasts.
I found this site (http://www.county.org/resources/library/county_mag/county/131/lights.html) very quickly and it shows how Smith County in Texas was able to affordably televise through live stream and they have 5 cable companies to coordinate. Franchise agreements deal with that issue.
But the real benefit is that a permanent, complete record is kept of commissioner meetings which may be why the commissioners are not motivated to make it affordable. In fact, we probably could have purchased the voice-activated video equipment for the price of this five-year study.

Diana Broomell

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16 responses to “Diana Broomell: Do the Commissioners Really Think Televised Meetings Would Cost Nearly a $1-M the first year?

  1. Mike,

    Because you have no personal address or ‘Comments to the Editor” page where I can approach you directly, I will use this mode to make a comment primarily intended for you, as it does not pertain to just one topic. That page might be something you should consider, and make this the first post.

    When you say Commissioner, but do not reference County or City (Elkton here) you are creating confusion. Intentional or not, you should be more specific. It applies here to handling of Diana’s comment. From you, “This is a post from Commissioner Candidate Diana Broomell that…” and then you follow that with Diana’s “Do the Commissioners really think we’re…”

    Diane, through your blog and your headline, queries directly Scott Mesneak as if addressing him directly. Do the two of you expect a response without contacting him directly?

    Perhaps so much of the confused debate on your blog and your investigations into corruption has been created by misconstrued or misleading information.

    Your ‘Someone Noticed’ tag line indicates you focus on Elkton Government News. Yet you jump unprepared into County politics and issues.

    The innuendo that you and many of the readers make, that there was something shading going on between County Government and an issue committee, without researching and confirming all the facts in advance, is very poor journalism. You claim “fair and balanced”, yet publish your opinion without full investigation and fact verification. Now look what you have done.

    You have created a buzz about the Charter issue, which detracts from a fair and balanced discussion. You have not published nor referenced anything about the topic from either side. You claim the Friends for Charter of Cecil County, Maryland are trying to ‘sway voters’ and are ‘seeking to influence voters’.

    For you to suggest misconduct, and then publish your opinion in such a slip shod fashion is deplorable.

    Are not you trying to sway and influence? Are you dragging out this exercise up to November 2 in order to manipulate your public’s opinion?

    The Board of County Commissioners appointed a Charter Board to create a charter for Cecil County. That Board had a year to draft the charter and submitted it to the County Commissioners. That Charter has been presented, publically, numerous times. The Agendas and Minutes are published on the Cecil County Government web site. Cecil County Citizens have had and continue to have; many opportunities to talk to the Charter Board; forums to voice their opinions; and the choice to form an opposition group if they feel it necessary.

    The Friends are intelligent, well-educated, dedicated and loyal citizens of Cecil County. They have and continue to contribute a great deal of time and resources to and for Cecil County. They were chosen, by the Cecil County Commissioners for their expertise and valuable judgment.

    The Cecil County Office of Economic Development puts in exorbitant hours working to present and promote Cecil County. They do this 24/7 and contribute, many times, from their own pockets.

    There is no issue committee opposing Charter. (i.e. Enemies Against Charter of Cecil County, Maryland). The opposition appears to be malcontents moaning and complaining on blogs. They do not present facts or offer source. They deploy scare tactics and spread rumor. They offer nothing more than bar room banter, patting each other on the back ‘for a good one’.

    I would expect, but do not anticipate, an apology from you to those you have assailed. How dare you unleash your conjecture and call it “alternative new media”. Prove that the internet is not void of ethics.

    • Raoul:

      Since you raised so many points in your Friday post, I’ll answer the key ones here related to the central question we’ve been reporting on, how a group running a political campaign to influence the vote on the ballot question funded its media products. You had lots of added points too and I’ll do that in a separate reply as these long things are hard to follow on the Net.

      1. You say so much of the confusion has been caused by misconstructed or misleading info.

      This story has played out in real time as new information was unearthed and we reported it factually. If there’s a specific error or something you’re referring to reference that and we’ll examine your point.

      When this first came up since it created serious questions. We let the spokesperson for the Friends know that just as soon as we heard that they had handled the BRAC bus tour as that struck us as a most unusual practice and we were going dig into it some more as it was newsworth. So, seeking to clear up questions about county involvement in the political process, we persued this in an open fashion, making sure we reported whatever comments we received central to the story.

      The problem is that we’re now nearly 4 weeks into this matter as election day nears and it’s more confused than when it started. At first two representatives of Economic Development talked to us, explaining why they selected the group listed as a special issues committee with the Board of Elections. They presented reasonable points, as they discussed their rationale and were responsive.

      But as deeper questioned needed to be asked based on those first fact-finding interviews the communications from Vernon Thompson stopped. What caused the deeper concern was two emails when the director said the county had never been in the bus tour business so it couldn’t hand one off to anyone.

      We’ll that didn’t reconcile with the depts. marketing material, newspaper reports, commercial broadcasts, web sites and talks we’d heard around town, as far as we understood it. But, remaining open to obtaining more info to sort out the growing tangle that just became more confusing, we asked the director for documents (email, letters) between any interested parties. There were none he replied.

      Now that really caused more questions. So if we understand that properly and we did try to ask, there was no communication between Fort Monmouth, the Army, APG, State-BRAC, etc and Economic Development to coordinate this effort. After asking those two follow-up questions, we heard nothing else from the dept. to help clarify this matter. At the commissioner level, though, there was one call from Commissioner Hodge and an email from Commissioner Lockhart saying they were going to look into it. (Both were reported as they occurred.)

      If this were us (either county commissioners of Friends of BRAC), we’d seek to get this story straightened immediately, rather than drag it out. We’d want it put to rest so it wasn’t swirling around the blogosphere as it has done. That just causes more confusion and rumors.

      We actually thought the county or another interested group would move quickly to put this story to rest and we wonder why they didn’t. If there is absolutely no connection between county government and a group trying to influence an election, just put everything you have out there and get it over. That would have been the end of the story, rather than dragging it out.

      2. As that Fair and Balanced perspective, not in the Fox News style. Raoul, we are presenting both sides as they present their case so the reader can decide. We’ll report you decide, isn’t that how they say it. Of course officials have to provide documentation and/or comments to explain decisions. If there’ s something specifc you can mention, we’ll examine it.

      It’s probably not perfect, but notice when we published Vernon Thompson statements about why this was done, we gave it full play as represented to us. We also said if the Director wanted to add anything, release a statement, or correct something, that input was welcome too. How much more open can you be. But we never heard back. We said the same thing for the Friends or anyone else.

      3. You say we jumped in unprepared in county politics.

      Is there some advanced training, postnomial, or credential that prepares one to comment on county politics. As a person with a progressive-orientation let me say this, we need more citizens watching government, especially locally. It contributes to good government in a community when elected officials know that lots of people are watching a transparent government.

      4. Are we trying to sway the election and drag this out to Nov. 2, you ask

      No, we thought the county or some other stakeholder group would have moved quickly to put this story to rest by getting all the facts out there, however it stacked up. But it is still an open story after almost 4 weeks.

      5. Raoul, no disagreement about the Charter creation process, nor is that question that has ever been examined in these pieces on Someone Noticed. Nor is there disagreement about your assessment of the people on the committee or your general operational comments about Economic Development. None of that is in question or has it been questioned by Someone Noticed. tioned so I’m not sure how they pertain in your long comment. So I’m not sure how they pertain to this. But if there’ a piece where we said something about the individuals, the charter writing process, etc. let us know and we’ll reassess that.

      5. Raoul, one always has to ask what are the questions that need to be examined for fact-finding, especially in light of responses or lack of as this thing unfolded, slowly, week by week. Let me, for many repeated times, reiterate the questions that are under consideration. They’re simple and straightforward and do deserve quick answers. Remember these are fact-finding efforts design to share info once officials and stakeholders answer them.

      Back to the questions.

      1. What is Economic Development’s role in coordinating, arranging, conducting, hosting, and/or sponsoring BRAC bus tours?

      2. If the county has some connection with coordinating, arranging, hosting, conducting and/or sponsoring BRAC bus tours, how is it that in this instance a group listed with the Maryland Board of Elections as a special issues committee. was selected to conduct this tour. (We thought that was pinned down, until the county said it has no involvement in bus tours.)

      3. Did all the tours make similar profits and if not how is it that this one became a source of substantial profit?

      Once those are answered (mostly been around since this started 4 weeks ago) with some documentation, I think we’ll have the answers needed to sort through this tangle that grew more confusing over time.

      • We’ll call this one Raoul part II as we continue on with the many questions that were asked. These largely have to do with points you made other than Charter

        Raoul:

        1. Feel free to use the “about page” for broad general feedback if that helps with the concern you opened with.

        2. The subject of broadcasting the meetings of the county board of commissioners has been making headlines as Commissioner Candidate Broomell has been an advocate for that, for some time. This past week it got a frontpage headline when the county reported the costs were going to approach a $1-M for the first year (start up & annual cost). Thus while it explicity didn’t say which commissioner group, it was talking about Cecil County That’s the office Diana is seeking and Cecil County Government has had plenty of headlines, including recent ones, for anyone following political discussions closely.

        3. Diana will have to let you know if she was expecting a response from Scott, but I suspect it was more just reacting to his comments in the newspaper article just as she might have with a letter to the editor. That’s not unusual.

        4. You say we jumped in unprepared in county politics.

        Is there some advanced training, postnomial, or credential that prepares one to comment on county politics. As a person with a progressive-orientation let me say this, we need more citizens watching government, especially locally, where the political leadership is not used to the public eye. It doesn’t come much from legacy media either as they’re stretched far too thin to dig into things and it really hasn’t been the strength of media here.

        5. You say our masthead says we focus on the Greater Elkton area. That’s true and in more detail it says we focus on matters of broad civic interest to the greater Elkton area. Well we happen to think county politics has an important impact on people residing in the greater Elkton area. But if that’s all we have to debate Raoul in this situation, not bad.

        6. We did write that the Friends of Charter are trying to sway or influence the vote.

        Aren’t they? Did we miss something? Don’t their billboards urge people to vote yes on charter? Logic suggests this is a group trying to running a political campaign, one that has to convince people to vote in favor. BTW, there’s nothing wrong with that so I’m not sure why that point concerns you.

        1.

        • Mike,

          “1. Feel free to use the “about page” for broad general feedback if that helps with the concern you opened with.”

          I would gladly do that if, there were a way to do so.

          Suggestions? Instructions?

        • Gosh Linda,
          You can also get to the ‘About’ page from the navigation bar under the masthead right next to ‘Home’. However, once there, ‘yup I was right, there is nowhere to make an entry or reply to anything.

          Now, the About page on ‘Window on Cecil County’s Past’ has a place to leave a replay, as well as the Archives and Shore Blogging pages.

          The About page on ‘Reflections on Delmarva’s Past’ has a place to leave a reply, as well as the Archives and Shore Blogging pages.

          The About page on ‘Old Delmarva Photos’ has a place to leave a reply.

          However, on good old Someone Noticed, there is no place to leave a reply on the Home, About, Images, News, Shore Blogging or Archive pages. I can ‘Leave a comment’ on Posted material as I am doing here.

          Wait, I will try your suggestion again, Linda. No, there is still nothing there. There is no vehicle to address Mike directly as the Editor.

          I do not “have all the knowledge and answers” nor would I make that assumption. The simple option writing directly to the editor of this blog (yes, I do know that Mike is in charge of them all) should not be such a difficult request.

          Mike,
          Look at this post’s initial entry, which you pulled from another confused post, as an example. I think your blog and issues, of which you and many others are concerned, would be much easier to follow with a little organization. It is just a simple suggestion.

        • Raoul, Without your usual fancy showmanship reply. Would it be that difficult to just say you have tried . Give us all a break.

        • Raoul, For goodness sake. Home Page, Go to TOP POST, Four Marks down, Press ABOUT. You think you have all the knowledge and answers this Simple task should have been a breeze.

  2. Raoul,

    I’m not impressed. Your post, in nearly correct English, is critical of one of the few literate, well-traveled and well-read county residents who is still uninfluenced by money or perceived power.

    You’re critical of the omission of either mention of county or “City” attribute. For those familiar with the county and its politics (FYI – there are no cities in Cecil), they know there is no other pending election in Elkton (or other town in the county) except for the county-level positions, state and federal offices.

    There are still well-meaning people in the county, for sure, but so often there is the perception of impropriety. I applaud Mike’s effort to ask the questions that the professional reporters are either not willing to ask or are instructed by their editors to avoid. The editorial integrity of the daily paper – at a minimum – is lacking. And, that opinion is based on nearly 20 years of observation. Nearly half of that was spent in the profession directly.

    I won’t argue point-for-point, because the reason for my comment was to support the one of this post.

    Spending 5 years studying ANY technology solution is a flawed practice. Heck, 5 years ago, Facebook.com was still “TheFacebook.com” and was likely still limited to just a few universities. So much has changed in that short period of time.

    It’s often government agencies spend far too much – for most everything. If the goal were to identify a solution that would provide recordings of the county commissioners’ meetings (there really shouldn’t be a requirement for a “live” version) so that the 3 cable companies serving the county can replay them, the cost should only be in the recording and duplicating.

    I’ll admit it’s been a while since I looked into the cable company requirements to provide community access to their service, but it probably hasn’t changed much – if at all.

    There’s no need to create a broadcast studio and there’s certainly no need to come up with programming to augment the meeting coverage to fill in the open time slots.

    I’d be impressed if one elected body in the county would step up and take advantage of the Internet resources available to open up their meetings to more than those who can attend in person. It’s even more important now that there isn’t regular coverage by the news media. Back when there was competition for news in the county, there was more assurance that something wouldn’t be missed. When I was covering the county, there were two daily papers and two weekly papers and often more than one reporter would attend EVERY meeting held in the county. If something didn’t get covered, it was typically something that more than one reporter or editor judged frivolous. Today, there’s probably no one around who will dig into the “why” of a news item – except for those who are writing blogs.

    I’ve said before that the only ways to ensure elected officials do what their constituency wants is to increase public pressure to ensure they do the right thing — or organize against them and VOTE for those who will do a better job.

    In Elkton, those who aren’t happy with Mayor Joe Fisona’s decision to discontinue the recording of their workshop meetings should step up the pressure on the commissioners. Publicly challenge the decision at EVERY meeting where you are allowed to speak. AND, don’t think that the mayor is the last word on this. If more than 2 of the commissioners could be helped to find their backbones, they can propose and vote on a change that would allow more input at meetings. They can do the same thing when it comes to recording the sessions and posting them for others to see.

    It’s been 14 years since I published the first online newspaper in Cecil County. From what I can tell, not a lot that has changed when it comes to the way elected officials conduct themselves. If it weren’t for those interested citizens sharing information on blogs, many things would be overlooked or covered up.

    I applaud Mike and the others who take their time to at least ask questions. And, when the answers received are conflicting (especially with those provided by the SAME individual), it’s worthwhile asking for clarification. They say if you tell the truth all of the time, you don’t have to keep track of what you say….

    Wayne Fenstermacher

  3. Wayne:

    Always good to hear from an old Cecil County news editor (the decades are getting by), that knew how to cover his beat in Cecil County and dig into things involving politicians. That legacy media has forgotten the importance of that, especially in these days when newspaper have competition, amazes me. But they sure have. I still well remember many of your excellent investigative pieces that took a great deal of digging, provided a public service, and caused local politicians to eventually implement new policies or do something different.

    Probalby could for readership and corporate stakeholder value too.

  4. Thank you , Diana, for providing your usual down-to-earth approach and cutting through the superficial excuses that the Commissioners have offered for failing to take action. As Mike has started streaming the Town Commissioners’ meetings recently, it is clear that it can be accomplished with far less than 3/4 Million dollars (unless you recently won the lottery, Mike).

  5. Jacque Broomell

    Thank you, Diana Broomell for yet another down to earth, common sense, economically feasible possible solution. Thank you, Mike Dixon for providing a forum for topics which at times escape the ‘regular media’ scrutiny. Raoul, why on earth do I feel the need to call you ‘Bob’???

    • My kids can make a movie from their phone. It is not rocket science except for people who can’t set the clock on their VCR or Microwave.

      It is not necessary to hire anyone or even let Wayne Fenstermacher horn in to Cecil County with his internet marketing schemes. He can stay in PA.

      Dianne and Jacque, it is OK to think outside the box. But, we need leaders who can actually think, strategically AND implement. You have concerns and some good ideas…just no idea how to get it done.

      You also have some really inept ideas and seem to be drawn to people trying to sell you their ‘Golden Solution to Riches and Fame’. Take one of those free cruise ship tours and chill out.

      If you are uncomfortable speaking in public, you cannot lead. Sorry, but that’s just reality. Deal with it.

      • Comments from someone who must use a pseudonym (and not a good one at that) must be considered suspect at best. If there’s a real reason for the cloak, we can understand, especially if you’re ashamed of and not proud of your opinion. But, my identity hasn’t been hidden here and the history I have with Cecil County isn’t one of which I am ashamed.

        I’ve opened the closed doors of municipal meetings more than a few times in Cecil County and they apparently are still being closed more often than necessary. The trouble is, there are fewer people willing to step up and put their foot between a door and its jamb when a mayor tries to keep the public from inspecting the backroom dealings.

        As for the cruises, you’ve probably taken more than I have.

        Wayne

  6. Raoul:
    In reference to your concern about where to put broad general comments, not pertaining to any one topic, I see you point in reference to the about page. That has always been the spot for that and as you’ll notice at the bottom it includes comments from readers. But for some reason, a reader isn’t able to do that right now. I looked around and checked configurations, but can’t figure it out right now.

    Raoul, we understand you’re familiar with these web 20.0 publishing and technology products too, so you’ll understand when we say this is a wordpress platform and the Coraline theme. That means the template was designed by a third-party. So perhaps it’s something there or we’re missing something on this end. A few months ago WordPress upgrade some technology and that did create a problem.

    We’ll take a look at it more as things settle down on the news side of things. But we received your message/concern about this. Some people send us messages via the posts and just note that at the top it’s not for public posting. That’s one of the ways get news tips and we make sure those don’t go up on the blog.

    We’ll

  7. Diana thanks for speaking up for these things. The cost just doesn’t make sense. Also people are too busy working to have time to attend meetings. If we could watch them that would help a lot. Appreciate your effort in pushing for this.

    Don’t worry about a few people that try to twist things around. Voters can guess where they are coming from and the interest they represent.

    Joann

  8. Stephen England

    The idea that the only way to broadcast commissioner meetings is to set up a million-dollar TV station strikes me as disingenuous in an age when every last teenager is posting their every waking moment on Youtube and other Internet sites. Broadcasting the meetings will require work and innovation, but since when has anything worthwhile not required effort?

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