Delivered to 15,000 Plainfield "doorsteps" Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday

Monday, December 1, 2008

League inspires a wish for Plainfield

Dr. Yood wondered what Plainfielders attended the League of Municipalities convention and what workshops they participated in (see here). I'll answer part of that question, but first a wish for the City.

I wish that we could join the towns that put their public meetings online in an easy, cost-effective manner.

Forget the lights blinding those in attendance at Council meetings, as on November 24
(see here), taping a meeting that then needed to be edited before it could be put up on the city's public access cable channel, PCTV-74.

In Branchburg (see here), residents can watch real-time webcasts of Council and board meetings. And look up agendas and minutes. (Did I mention that the Council also gets an e-packet of everything in advance?)

Costs an arm and a leg, right? Not necessarily.

Branchburg paid $21,000 to set up the system and $9,000/year for the continuing service. Sounds way cost-effective to me.

And without the bright lights and the time lag in editing, and the fact that not all Plainfielders have cable (and fewer will as Verizon FIOS comes online) and therefore are left out of the mix.

There are actually two systems out there --
  • IQM2: This is a full-service system that streams the meetings in real-time and consolidates agendas, attachments and minutes for both the Council and the public. This is the service used by Branchburg (webcasts here, township page here).

  • This service, which I saw live at the League trade show, allows the Clerk's staff to set up the recording of the meeting with a touchscreen that has four simple steps: Prepare, Record, Stop, and Process. Once the video is processed, it is available on demand to viewers through the city's website. The system supports up to 8 cameras and mikes, making sure that all the action and speakers (including the public) are seen and heard. And the cameras work in low-light settings like City Hall Library, meaning attendees won't have to be blinded for the public good.
Regardless of how tight times are, I think the Council should investigate moving into the 21st century, and putting the Mayor's communications staff back to work communicating.


To answer Dr. Yood's question partly, I spotted most of the Council members and several Department and Division heads -- though Mr. Peck was NOT spotted. (I am also told the Planning Board was there in strength.)

While not everyone who attends sees fit to enlighten the folks who paid the tab for the trip, some have, as note below --
  • Cory Storch: Councilor Storch noted (see here) that long-range financial planning and workshops on 'going green' drew his -- and everyone else's interest. Storch opines that there is such momentum to the benefits and savings of going green that even Plainfield may find itself joining the parade;

  • Annie McWilliams: Citywide councilor-elect Annie McWilliams also reports on the long-range financial planning worshop -- at which she was lucky enough to get a seat (the crowd spilled out into the hallway outside the meeting room);

  • Rashid Burney: Councilor Burney made two reports from Atlantic City -- one on the updated ARC (Access to the Region) report involving -- for Plainfielders -- getting a one-seat ride to New York City (see here). Also, he was struck by two different vendors -- Swiftreach, which specializes in emergency communications with residents via reverse-911, email and texting; and the GEM vehicles, street-legal electric vehicles that get up to 30 miles per charge and cost only $6,500 each. Read more about these ideas here.
This year's League Convention seemed less well attended (the lot across from Angelo's where I always park was about a quarter full as opposed to full). Even the parties (no, I wasn't invited) were said to be less raucous. The convention was sober almost to the point of being somber.

That would have pleased my Puritan forebears.

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.


Anonymous said...

If our government ran efficiently, we would have more than enough money for web casts. The reason we do not is that we are paying for 2 full time positions in the PR department and I understand we pay for a consultant to do the work that one of the two full time positions was hired to do.

In other words, we are paying for an unqualified person to be on the payroll, and in order to keep their job, we are paying extra for someone to do it. Can't wait until 2009!