Town Square, Sept. 11, 2019

Town Square is an opinion column to which readers can submit their views. As a true community newspaper, we’re always looking for ways to include local thought and pertinent viewpoints. This column is a way to share those thoughts. Civility and fair comment will always prevail.
The Dorchester County Council’s 3-2 decision to remove discussion of live streaming meetings from the Sept. 3 agenda received an unusually high number of comments on our Facebook page. Many of those comments are seen here. Opinions for and against are represented proportionately. Our invitation to comment was: “Members Lenny Pfeffer (Dist. 4) and Ricky Travers (Dist. 3) want to have council meetings live streamed online and archived.
Members William Nichols (Dist. 2), Jay Newcomb (Dist. 1) and Libby Nagel (Dist. 5) voted against the move.
Mr. Pfeffer said citizens who can’t come to meetings should be able to watch proceedings.
Mr. Nichols said if citizens are interested, they should attend in person.
Let’s hear what you think!


DEMAND: Utter nonsense. We DEMAND transparency from the county council.

DISABLED: Everyone may not have the ability to show up. Some citizens are disabled or have other obligations. You know that, William. We are all getting older.

INSTILL TRUST: If all of our county council members were committed to exceptional constituent services, then all five of our elected officials would be in agreement of live streaming the county council meetings. Thank you to Councilman Lenny Pfeffer and Councilman Ricky Travers for initiating this much-needed transparency and recognizing that a more transparent government is beneficial to all. Maryland’s Open Meetings Act is a statute that requires many state and local public bodies to hold their meetings in public, to give the public adequate notice of those meetings, and to allow the public to inspect meetings’ minutes. The Act permits public bodies to discuss some topics confidentially. The Act’s goals are to increase the public’s faith in government, ensure the accountability of government to the public, and enhance the public’s ability to participate effectively in our democracy. I respectfully request that our county council move to live stream and archive their meetings for the citizens of Dorchester County in an effort to instill trust in our local government.

FOR RESEARCH: I attend the meetings, but still would like to have them live streamed and recorded. I often go back to look at the minutes and have to wait four to six weeks until they post the approved minutes. I would also like to watch it if I am sick or hope that other people who are sick don’t come and cough all through the meeting.

FAMILY AND WORK: I demand, respectfully, that it be streamed live. Everything should be transparent. Lots of folks cannot attend because of family and work

PROUD OF PFEFFER: Stream it. I am proud to have Lenny representing my district. Thanks to Ricky, too.

DISCUSSION: A great topic for discussion. I think there must be a number of residents who are unable to attend due to work or health, but would like to stay in the loop.

IN THE DARK: Because many of us have alternating work schedules, it makes it impossible to attend meetings. If they really want to represent us, they should allow us equal access to information, Mr. Nichols. Why are people voting for those who want to keep the general public in the dark regarding their decisions?

LIMITS: Because no one will go against them. I mean really, if I wanted to, I cannot even contact my commissioner. You ask him a question on Facebook, and never hear from him again, which is why we need to limit how long they can serve and put an age limit on it as well.

CAMBRIDGE COUNCIL: The city has been doing it for a while, works nicely. EDITOR’S NOTE: For examples of Cambridge’s archived meetings, and those of other cities, visit www.townhallstreams.com.

DESERVING CITIZENS: Live stream, especially for those who are physically unable to attend due to disabilities, illnesses or reasons beyond their control. Those citizens still deserve to be informed and included.

VALID REASONS: They should be televised and recorded. For many valid reasons, people cannot attend these meetings in person. For transparency’s sake, meetings should be televised and recorded for all to see.

BE MODERN: Mr. Nichols needs to get with the times. Live stream the meetings. Why not strive to reach as many members of the community as is technologically possible?

THE BOSS?: Mr. Nichols is only doing as he is told. Mr. Newcomb is the one in charge of the three against this.

TRANSPORTATION ISSUES: Stream the meetings. Some of us are unable to attend, because we have kids who need to get up very early for school, transportation issues and other reasons.

PRESENCE NOT REQUIRED: Every reasonable effort should be made to include every citizen who wants to participate. To limit participation to physical presence means we don’t need absentee ballots. Someone should override the dissenting council members and make live streaming mandatory.

OTHER WAYS: I think there are ways to go around these three, but will take research and a lot of phone calls.

INVOLVEMENT: If they want community involvement and input, then make it easier for us to participate. I’m skeptical when any elected official stonewalls a commonsense initiative.

SKEPTICISM: Not everyone is going to agree with decisions made by any elected official, but I have always believed as long as you can explain why you decided a specific way, it shows you have reasons for your stand. However, if you refuse to explain your rationale, it leads to more skepticism of what you do.

DIG DEEPER: Respectful dialog is always the way to go. But when elected officials try to limit legitimate involvement in their activities, it’s time to dig deeper. They work for us, not vice versa. Their dialog and actions need to be seen and watched by all.
Not everyone can make it to meetings due to work, having children in school, family obligations, health or driving ability. Unless someone has something to hide, what is the big deal?

CAN’T HIDE MUCH: I have seen comments from people saying by not live streaming they are hiding something. Well, if it’s a public meeting and community members are attending, if they really wanted to hide it, they wouldn’t be bringing it up at the meetings. I’m not voicing my opinions one way or the other regarding the live streaming, but people always assume there is always something sinister behind a decision, or three certain people are trying to hide something. It’s a public meeting. They cant hide much.

BUSY AT WORK: As new business owners, we are with our shop everyday, and we typically don’t close until 9 p.m. This does not allow us to leave often for much. It doesn’t mean we aren’t interested. It means we aren’t physically able. However, we could watch it live or when we close if it’s recorded.

DISABLED TAXPAYERS: Live stream and archived. There is no reason people who have limited mobility, limited transportation or any other reason a tax-paying citizen may have, shouldn’t be able to watch proceedings in their own time.

WHAT’S WRONG?: Stream! There are many obstacles for people in various situations to deal with…transportation, child care, physical mobility, elder care, etc., that make attending a challenge. Besides, as others have said, what’s the downside?

MINUTES AND WEEKS: They need to be streamed. Have you seen how long it takes for the minutes to be posted?

FEAR NOT: They are elected by the people of Dorchester and should not be afraid of live streaming their meetings.

PROMISED: Where is the transparency you promised? [EDITOR’S NOTE: The reader attached the following Facebook post by Council Member Jay Newcomb, dated Nov. 5, 2018.]
“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!”

STILL CARES: Should be able to be seen and heard by all. Just because I can’t attend in person, doesn’t mean I don’t care.

CHILD CARE: Stream it. The space isn’t big enough for everyone to attend. Some people do have transportation others have children to feed and get ready for bed.

THIS CENTURY: Live stream —not everyone has day jobs or is retired. And I must say good job to Lenny Pfeffer, who is actually trying to get with this century. Thank you, Lenny Pfeffer and Ricky Travers.

PUBLIC SERVANTS: Live stream. A more transparent government is a good thing. They work for us.

NOT CATCHING UP: Most towns and cities offer live streaming and archival footage. Heck, even churches are live streaming. Some hospitals are using it. But God forbid Dorchester County is allowed to catch up. Seems like we always have people keeping us pushed back 10 or 15 years. I say we do limits on the commissioners. Time to end the good old boy county commissioner games.

SNEAKY?: Stream them for transparency, unless you are trying to sneak something past us. Now, politicians wouldn’t want to do that, would they? Stream them.

FEAR: Live stream it and record it. I work and have kids, but want to see what’s happening. Those against transparency are afraid of something.

HARD TO GET THERE: In a county like Dorchester, why would you not live stream? Transportation is one of the major issues in the county and streaming would resolve that problem for some.

CLOSED DOOR: When people don’t want everyone to see what they do, they close the door. It’s 2019, stream those meetings.

NO GOOD REASON: There is no legitimate reason not to do this. The cost is nominal, $1,200 a year, and it would give greater access to the residents of the county. Councilman Lenny Pfeffer brought this motion forward after Councilman Newcomb had it removed from the agenda. He did not even want this to be discussed. Just makes you wonder why he and Ms. Nagel and Mr. Nichols are so adamant they don’t want people to be able to see the meetings.

OUT OF THE DARK: Progressive government does this. Meetings are required to be open and not everyone can make it to a meeting everytime. The only reason I can think to not record meetings and not make them available is to not let citizens know what is going on. Let’s move out of the dark ages.

FEDS DO IT: Hey, they televise Congress, you know. What makes you above them? What are certain people afraid of?

DISABILITIES: Live Stream please. My disabilities prevent me from attending the meetings.

Town Square – your public forum – is moderated by Dorchester Banner Editor Dave Ryan. Email your comments to dryan@newszap.com.

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