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Bal Harbour

Bal Harbour puts off streaming council meetings online

 

Special to the Miami Herald

Plans to stream Bal Harbour council meetings via the Internet have been put on hold, despite strong support from residents.

On Tuesday, July 2, Councilwoman Patricia Cohen proposed the idea of broadcasting the Bal Harbour council meetings in their entirety over the Internet so that those who are unable to attend may watch them.

“They don’t have to come,” she said at the council meeting. “Maybe we get more participation because they don’t want to go to the meetings.”

However, Mayor Jean Rosenfield and Councilman Jaime Sanz said they didn’t have enough research to support the idea.

“At this moment, I don’t have enough evidence to convince me that this is the direction we should go,” Rosenfield said. “That doesn’t mean that it won’t change my mind.”

Currently, the village airs a slideshow with Bal Harbour information on channel 77, provided by Atlantic Broadband Cable as a public information channel. The village clerk keeps an audio record of each meeting, which is available upon request, and there is small charge for a compact disc.

The proposal to stream video of the meeting and to archive past meetings would have cost about $14,000, plus an annual fee for website services. The company that was being considered was BIS Digital, which works for several municipalities.

Councilman Martin Packer agreed that the meetings should be streamed.

“New technology is inexpensive,” he said. “It’s plain and simple: It’s 2013, almost 2014. We can’t go back to 1990. There’s no reason for us to ban it.”

However, village resident Dan Holder disagreed with the idea of streaming the meetings.

“But the problem with television is that everyone wants to be a star,” he said. “It changes the whole attitude and ambience.”

Resident Lynne Bloch-Mullen said this was a great opportunity to educate the public about what was happening in the village.

“The importance of getting everyone aboard with transparency is what we need,” she said. “All the trouble we had in Bal Harbour — as I mentioned before, this is the time to open the windows and let the sunshine in and let everyone be part of the council.”

The village has been under scrutiny since earlier this year, as it is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice over alleged misspending of money seized from drug dealers and money launderers.

There are a great number of seasonal residents in the village, like David Kwiat.

“It definitely should be on, and if a councilperson does not want to be televised, let them quit the council,” Kwiat wrote in an email. “These meetings must be in the sunshine. Very few residents really know what is happening in this village, nor do they have the time to attend meetings.”

Several municipalities stream their meetings online, including Coral Gables. Bay Harbor Islands Councilman Isaac Salver said he supported streaming meetings.

“Bay Harbor Islands has been televising our meetings since 2004 or 2005,” Salver said at the meeting. “The meetings are televised periodically on our local cable network, and the feedback from the community is only positive.”

Bal Harbour Assistant Mayor Joni D. Blachar said she felt the meetings should not be aired.

No date was set for the issue to be discussed again.

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