Frustrated with what she perceives to be foot-dragging, Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler has told County Administrator Bertha Henry to present a plan soon on how to make video recordings of prior commission meetings available to the public on demand through the county’s website.
Wexler said in an interview that she told Henry last week that if Henry fails to present a plan in a couple of weeks, Wexler would bypass her and bring the issue directly to her fellow commissioners for discussion and action.
Wexler’s frustration boiled after last Tuesday’s commission meeting when video-on-demand was unexpectedly and briefly discussed following a staff presentation about a new, web-based tool called Civic Engagement intended to promote public participation. Video on demand of commission meetings was not part of Civic Engagement.
Commissioner Chip LaMarca said he had received “some calls and requests” asking about archiving videos of commission meetings on the county’s web site for on-demand use.
Wexler, too, expressed support for such a system. “It is something I’ve been following up the last…three months,” Wexler told the commission. “We are one of the last counties [or] cities in Broward to be able to go to our web site [to get on demand meeting videos].”
She reminded Henry she previously requested a feasibility study “and I’m still waiting for some kind of response.”
Records show Wexler asked Henry to study the issue on Oct. 8. Although the “due date” was Dec. 15, the study had yet to be submitted.
Henry told the commission that “at some point we will bring back to you a plan for that but I really wanted to get [Civic Engagement and other] initiatives off our plate.” Henry added that archiving on-line commission meetings would “take a lot of resources” and would require ongoing staff resources.
After the commission meeting, Henry met with Wexler in the commissioner’s office. There, Wexler told Henry what she wanted.
BrowardBulldog.org reported in October that Broward is the only county in Southeast Florida and the only major local government in Broward County that does not archive its recorded commission meetings for later on-demand viewing by the public.
Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties, the Broward School Board, and 18 of 31 Broward cities — including Fort Lauderdale — provide on demand video or audio web viewing. Only Broward’s smaller municipalities lack this service. More than 85 percent of Broward’s population resides in cities that offer this on demand web service of commission or council meetings.
“I know when government drags its feet,” Wexler said in an interview. “I’m going to give it a couple of weeks and if [Henry’s proposal is not forthcoming] I’m going to put an agenda item on the dais…There is no reason why we can’t do it…This is something I really would like to see for transparency.”
Five commissioners, including LaMarca and Wexler, have indicated they support archiving videos of commission meetings and allowing on-demand web access.
Administrator Henry did not respond to a request for comment.