River Cities

Miami Springs council allows citizen comments via video-conference

The Miami Springs council on Monday voted 4-1 to allow the public to submit pre-recorded video comments to be shown during open forum.

“I just want to give voice to those folks that can’t come here,” said Councilman Jaime Petralanda. “For example, handicapped people, sick people, travelers and mothers with babies.”

Petralanda presented the idea a few months ago and it failed. Miami Lakes started playing pre-recorded videos at its meetings about two years ago, so the city reached out to its city clerk for guidance.

Miami Springs City Clerk Erika Gonzalez-Santamaria issued a memo on June 27 that while “there are no written rules” for video submissions, there were guidelines that included:

▪ Filling out a “public speaker’s card” to be forwarded with the video.

▪ Screening videos for “profanity, proper attire and proper decorum.”

▪ Playing videos “in the order that they were received.”

▪ Rejecting videos that exceed three minutes.

▪ Showing videos “after those present” have spoken at open forum.

The cost to prepare videos for council meetings would run $10.83 each.

Council members also discussed accepting audio, though the idea was scrapped.

“I’m gonna say no to that,” said City Attorney Jan Seiden. “You can identify somebody from their picture — but if somebody calls and says ‘I am so and so’ they may not be ‘so and so.’”

Miami Springs will begin accepting open forum videos starting with its first September meeting and the city clerk would serve as the clearinghouse for each submission.

It will cost the city about $1,464 to upgrade its servers to store the extra data and videos will be stored until shown at a council meeting, according to the city. Afterward, they will be recorded as part of the official meeting and will not be stored independently.

“This is democracy at its best,” Petralanda said.