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Miami Springs posts missing council meeting video after public outcry

 

Special to the Miami Herald

Miami Springs has uploaded a webcast of a June 24 city council meeting just one day after a Miami Herald story raised questions about the city’s failed efforts to broadcast the meeting, which dealt with the budget, a pending lawsuit and other matters.

“It’s finally up on the website,” City Manager Ron Gorland wrote in an email on July 10. He noted that there had been some “technical glitches.”

The city also posted a special link to the webcast along with this statement: “Our apologies for the delay on publishing the June 24th meeting. Technical difficulties required reloading the complete video file into our Livestream system from DVD.”

However, the city made no mention that other webcasts since June 24 had been uploaded — including a July 8 city council meeting — without incident.

The city has a public-access franchising agreement with Comcast to video-record council meetings, Gorland said on July 2. He said that the city is then responsible for uploading the content.

Some of the June 24 meeting’s agenda items included:

• a recently filed lawsuit that could halt the city’s plans to annex land and increase taxes;

• a report showing a projected budget deficit of nearly $600,000;

• spending $250,000 for new luxury golf carts.

“There’s nothing in the Sunshine Law that requires meetings to be recorded,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation and an expert on public-records laws. “The law simply says that minutes must be taken.”

Petersen said that the city could create an ordinance that addresses the webcasting of city meetings. A review of the city’s ordinances does not list any local laws pertaining to videotaping or webcasting except for those passed last year dealing with videos at adult bookstores.

Many of the town’s 14,000 residents do not subscribe to Comcast and rely on the city to upload council-meeting videos to its website for viewing. The city has claimed that upload-related issues were beyond the city’s control.

"It appears it may be a technical issue with the provider LiveStream," Gorland wrote in an email to the Miami Herald on July 2.

Livestream is a popular software program used to broadcast live and pre-recorded events.

"It usually has to do with bandwidth," said Christina DiRusso, a spokesperson for Livestream, who pointed out that the city was using an older version of the software.

DiRusso went a step further and had the company’s chief technology advisor dig a bit deeper.

“Our team looked at their video library, and they appear to have about a dozen clips from June 24 that are all very, very short,” DiRusso wrote in a follow-up email to the Herald on July 9.

This kind of “behavior,” she added, occurs with “network connection issues on-site.” Even after multiple tries, the city could not upload the video.

Residents can view the June 24 council meeting and city statement at www.miamisprings-fl.gov/webcast.

To avoid potential problems in the future, Livestream offered a possible solution.

“The city should look into upgrading to a newer software version,” DiRusso said.

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