Review of efforts to increase transparency and accessibility. Dear Council and Mayor...
Updated: Feb 8
We sent another letter to the mayor and council yesterday ahead of tonight's City Council Work Session. The transparency and accessibility we have been asking for since late last year is going to be discussed tonight. We have included video clips to share what council and the mayor have said and done about this issue up until this point. They are shared with you below as well. We will update you on what we learn in the meeting, and we hope to provide you with a recording also.
Here is the content of our email:
We hope you all are doing well and staying healthy. As the Tiger Team prepares to present their findings at tomorrow's Work Session we have high hopes the improvements being recommended will include, livestreaming public meetings to all available social media channels, recording and archiving them indefinitely, and offering the ability for citizens to give virtual public comments. You've heard a lot from us so we felt it was necessary to start a petition to show you that we aren't the only Madison residents who care about these issues.
You can view that petition at www.change.org/transparencynow
Some comments from the petition include:
"It’s time for Madison to get out of the dark ages in terms of technology and communication. We shouldn’t be trailing the rest of Alabama and the nation. We should be leading them.We have the capability. Let’s capitalize on it without further delay. It’s a win for all. And let’s take a lead in advocating for state legislation to permit virtual public input. It’s not just that virtual operations are the future, they’re a current reality. Let’s move forward, Madison!" - Michael Sheehy
"Allowing people to view and participate digitally can increase citizenship. In a time of political divisiveness, transparency is more important than ever. This is not necessarily a reflection on the current council, just a positive step in increasing communication that makes sense for all communities. - Lisa Blackmon
"I don't understand why Madison City Councils haven't made this happen years ago. For one most council members have complained about lack of community involvement and/or understanding, this can go a long way to resolving that concern. Also, if Council members are proud of their efforts, they should want an accurate historic record. Modern technology makes that easier than ever. There is no good reason not to implement these measures." - Juli Gerrits
You first heard from I Vote Madison on the topic of archiving meeting recordings back on November, 17th 2020 when we sent our first email. We feel it's important to not only reiterate some of the items we've brought to your attention over the past 10 months, but to also provide you with links to what you all have said and done up until this point. Please take some time to review the links below.
Jan. 25, 2021 Mayor Finley's Proposal to Council: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euJZYSrtsB8&t=5018s
Feb. 2, 2021 - Tara Bailey of I Vote Madison provided the City Council with research pertaining to how other cities in Alabama livestream, record and archive their meetings. Link to document: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1J1lAaVdvYBa144Nqbuhm9J8jaEys53Uf_kO-WA8b_2I/edit?usp=sharing
Feb. 8, 2021 City Council discussion on what platforms to use to view meetings, what platforms to use for accepting public comments, and how citizens will be added to the agenda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wQ1OzR3Chs&t=2702s
Feb. 8, 2021 (Part 2) City Council discussion on how long to keep meetings archived: *Note this discussion should have resumed at the meeting on Feb. 22, 2021 after Jason had the information on the cost of archiving. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wQ1OzR3Chs&t=4440s
Feb. 22, 2021 Tara Bailey's Public Comments about archiving and recording meetings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5A9JLHlP18&t=2364s
April 28,2021 Tara Bailey's remarks to the Local Government Records Commission: *Note the Alabama Department of Archives and History admits an update is needed regarding retention requirements for meeting recordings, noting the current language was written when City Clerks were using tape recorders to record meetings for the purposes of writing meeting minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOSARkjmiqo&t=269s
May 24, 2021 Tara Bailey's Public Comments on Archiving and Recording meetings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_YyTDUarKo&t=2775s
June 14, 2021 JessiLou Allen spoke on the importance of archiving meetings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH-45N7Ft1Y&t=595s
June 21, 2021 Heather Morgan thanked council for what's been done for transparency so far and asked council to expand on this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTRUmf9l6_c&t=465s
In closing I'd like to point out that Governor Ivey recently issued a new Emergency Declaration which includes a section pertaining to public meetings. (https://governor.alabama.gov/assets/2021/08/2021-08-13-State-of-Emergency-COVID-19.pdf) As our community grapples with the Delta variant of Covid and with record numbers of Covid occurring in our schools, I would implore you to conduct your meetings through Zoom for your safety and the safety of our community. If you choose to continue meeting in-person the public should once again have the ability to offer their public comments through Zoom. Below are two sections of the Emergency Declaration of particular interest pertaining to Public Meetings. The first section gives a governmental body the authority to conduct meetings virtually. The second section states that any meeting held must have a written summary or video or audio recording of the meeting. The summary must be made available no less than 24 hours after the meeting and recount the deliberations conducted and the actions taken with reasonable specificity to allow the public to understand what happened. Seeing that you already have the cameras and equipment to broadcast meetings, we would encourage you to consider broadcasting and recording your Work Sessions and other committee meetings. IV. Public Meetings section A. "Notwithstanding any provision of state law, a governmental body, as defined in the Open Meetings Act, or members of any other governmental entity or quasi governmental entity created pursuant to a state statute or municipal ordinance, may participate in a meeting - establish a quorum, deliberate, and take action - by means of telephone conference, video conference, or other similar communications equipment only if the communications equipment used to conduct the meeting allows all members of the governmental body or entity participating in the meeting to see and hear one another at the same time and allows members of the public to hear all members, and, if allowed, to participate. IV. Public Meetings section B. "No less than twenty-four hours following the conclusion of a meeting conducted pursuant to this section, a governmental body or entity shall post a written summary or video or audio recording of the meeting in a prominent location on its website - or, if it has no website, in any other location or using any other method designed to provide reasonable notice to the public. Any written summary posted pursuant to this subsection shall recount the deliberations conducted and the actions taken with reasonable specificity to allow the public to understand what happened. We would be more than happy to answer any questions you all may have and are always open to working together to increase citizen engagement in our community. Respectfully, Tara Bailey Founder