by Rick Langenberg:
Green Mountain Falls elected leaders have enthusiastically signaled the thumbs-up to the reopening of one of their prime bars, slated to open this week with a new owner, name and mission.
But when it comes to the apparent touchy subject of letting live cameras roll into the council chambers and the live streaming and video/audio broadcasts of their regular meetings, town leaders aren’t quite ready for the 21st century Internet age. This subject already led to a protest walkout by several trustees last fall and still has generated much angst among the board.
Last week, the board of trustees conducted another lively discussion on live streaming, in which viewers can observe meetings first-hand and simultaneously by accessing their computers, tablets, mobile devices or I-phones. More specifically, the trustees grappled with a brief one-page GMF public recording proposal crafted by town attorney Dan Stuart and Trustee Jane Newberry. According to these rules, the board will permit these types of broadcasts, with prior approval, but they won’t represent the official town record. The new proposed public recording policies also set certain ground rules, such as where operators can set up their equipment and assurances that related postings on Facebook, You Tube or any social media sites won’t be associated with the town government.
Also, virtually all the trustees agreed that the town doesn’t want to get into the live streaming and audio/video broadcast arena itself. This is done in such towns as Woodland Park and Cripple Creek. These broadcasts don’t feature any commercials, but they come with a small price.
Once again, the issue has generated debate over video operators and Internet producers who may charge for this service, or if these viewings feature commercials and are edited. “The town must get a piece of the action,” complained Trustee Howard Price, regarding the potential for fees and commercials. “It must be free.”
However, other council members questioned if this is a realistic option. “We are infringing on the free enterprise system,” said Trustee Tyler Stevens and the town’s former mayor. “We are overstepping our boundaries. “You are trying to legislate something that you can’t legislate,” said resident Rich Bowman, chief of the GMF/Chipita Park Fire Department.
Several audience members also questioned why the board is making such an issue out of a first-amendment right. “You are nitpicking this to death,” said former Mayor Dick Bratton. “This (the new public recording proposal) is a fine resolution.”
He said if the town isn’t going to operate the system itself, then it needs to open the door for outside operators who may provide the town with a needed service. He stressed that with weather conditions and conflicting commitments, residents couldn’t always attend local meetings. “Someone from KRDO (Channel 13) could come up here and videotape your meeting and there is nothing you could do about it, said Bratton, in explaining the constitutional right of individuals to record meetings for their own use. “They (potential video operators) are offering you a service. You are being too restrictive,” added Bratton, who didn’t see a problem with certain operators and producers trying to recoup their costs.
But Price and a few other trustees disagreed and raised concerns about operators creating unnecessary disturbances, and asked questions about lighting, editing and other procedures with the process. Newberry agreed that definite ground rules need to be established. “We have to be conscious of what has to be done,” said Newberry.
The trustees agreed to study the rules in more detail and make a decision at a forthcoming meeting. As a result, no live streaming of GMF meetings can occur.
This process was attempted last fall and ignited into a furor. Several trustees objected to the commercialization of the service, and questioned the editing process. Several members then walked out of a meeting, which at the time featured a state-of-the-art live streaming system used by an Internet producer for the Joyland Church facility, in protest.
But in a later interview, Mac Patrone, one of the trustees who partook in the walkout, stated that he didn’t object to the cameras, but was upset that a vote was called for regarding the live streaming situation and it wasn’t permitted.
Mayor Lorrie Worthey, who has been a big supporter of the live streaming process and has clashed with Patrone over this issue and other GMF matters, didn’t make any public comments at last week’s discussion. However, she referred to the new proposal as a good first step.