Nichols, Newcomb, Nagel: No to livestream

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
County Council Member Lenny Pfeffer District 4) has proposed livestreaming online of council meetings.

CAMBRIDGE — At the Sept. 3 meeting of the Dorchester County Council, the suggestion that meetings be livestreamed — shared online as they occur — was denied repeatedly. The reason, Council President William Nichols (District 2) said, was that if citizens are interested in council proceedings, they should attend the meetings in person.

Livestreaming is used by many governmental bodies, as well as other organizations. The equipment needed would have been free to the county, with the monthly charge for up to three meetings being $100.

Council Member Lenny Pfeffer (District 4) had attempted in April to have the meetings put online, with the same result. But agenda item “P” for Sept. 3 listed, “Livestream Proposal — Meetings.”

But that afternoon, a few hours before the meeting, Mr. Pfeffer posted a message on Facebook, saying, “ATTEMPT TO AVOID TRANSPARENCY!! I was just notified that Councilman Jay Newcomb contacted the County Manager to have tonight’s request for the Live Streaming and Archiving of Dorchester County Council meetings REMOVED FROM THE AGENDA! I have received so much positive response and zero negative response in regards to making our meetings available to the public, at the publics convenience. This service is FREE for the public to use at their convenience.”

As the meeting began at 6 p.m., Mr. Pfeffer used Item II, “Calls for Additions or Deletions to Agenda,” to try to get the discussion put back on the agenda. The attempt failed, by a 3-2 vote, with Mr. Pfeffer and Ricky Travers (District 3) in favor, while Mr. Newcomb (District 1), Mr. Newcomb and Libby Nagel (District 5) opposed.

After the amended agenda items were discussed, during the time set aside for public comment, a reporter from the Dorchester Banner asked Mr. Newcomb why there was not more support for livestreaming.

“First of all, it was already voted,” Mr. Nichols said. “Three, four months ago, back in April, it was already voted on. It gets really depressing, when there’s something voted down, unless there’s some kind of staunch, some kind of information that’s really binding, why do you keep hashing up the same old thing?”

“To me, it’s a non-issue,” Mr. Nichols said. “Just for me saying, it’s a non-issue.”
He was then asked why he preferred not to have meetings livestreamed. “I’ve said it 100 times,” Mr. Nichols said. “I like to see people come in here.

They can hear the whole thing theirself. They can be here. Most people who got a issue, I’ll tell you what you do. You want to see this room packed? Change a road name. Go ahead, people who don’t even want a road in here. They can come in. They can come in any time they want. The door is always open.”

He continued, “Now I know sometimes, they can’t make it to every meeting, but nobody wants to come to every meeting. If they did, more power to them, I’m glad for them, they are taking a civic view of what’s going on. But everybody is not going to come, even if we show it on TV.”

“The same amount of people came in then as it is now,” he said. “It’s the same ones. The door’s open. Can’t nobody be hardly no more busy than you, always been the person for the paper, and we five of us sitting up here.”

“We never stopped nobody coming through that door, never, in 25 years,” he said. “Everybody is welcome. And busy schedules, hey, whose is busier than what ours is? Try going to your regular job, and then come here. And other things, and go visit different functions in the community. That’s a busy schedule.”

Then in the portion reserved for council members’ comments, Mr. Pfeffer said, “Today I received notice a few hours before the meeting that the agenda item for the livestream had been removed at the request of the Mr. Newcomb.”

“President Nichols said we had voted on this, and we didn’t. We voted for a motion I had made to have the IT department look into this. That was $6,000 dollars. That’s not nothing. That’s a little bit of money. Then we had another opportunity that I had nothing to do with, Bay Country Communications in conjunction, or partnership, with a company called Town Hall Streams, which is the company that the City of Cambridge uses, approached us. They said we’ll give you free equipment, and we’ll only charge you $100 a month for up to three meetings.”

“I got very excited,” Mr. Pfeffer continued, “Because I want transparency for everybody.” He said there are senior citizens, families with young children and those who have problems with transportation who would appreciate witnessing the meetings online. “They can’t be here, they can’t spread themselves out three and four ways.”

He said the meetings would also be archived for up to five years, so citizens could study the recordings later. “I know it’s a concern for Councilman Nichols, because he has said before that sometimes the newspaper may misrepresent a word or two. There was something that happened to Councilman Newcomb. You had said the paper had misquoted you on something. This way, everybody would have a chance to look at that.”

Mr. Pfeffer said Mr. Newcomb had spoken to him before the meeting, and pointed out that Mr. Pfeffer had written that the streaming would be free, and it would not be, as it would cost taxpayers $100 a month. “I have to say, yes sir, and I apologize for that. So with that, I would like to make a motion as to the livestreaming, I will pay the $100 per month, at no cost to this county, for the remainder of the fiscal year.”

Mr. Travers seconded the motion. There was no discussion before the vote, but Mr. Newcomb did make a public comment during his campaign regarding the issue of openness in government. On Nov. 5, he posted online, “Friends, The election is one day away. As your next Councilman for District 1, I will ensure transparency in all business conducted by Dorchester County government — there will be NO behind the scenes, behind your back dealings. All residents who come before the council will be treated with respect and will be heard. The citizens of Dorchester County deserve it! Please vote Jay Newcomb for District 1. Your choice, your voice!
Jay L. Newcomb
P.S. Please share this post.

Mr. Pfeffer’s motion to pay for the service himself fell by a vote of 2-3.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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