Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Online Council Meetings Pitched

Monday’s City Council meeting was both tiring and tiresome. Once again, somebody was permitted to give an unannounced business pitch. This occurred at about 9 p.m. as people were still awaiting the Monarch discussion.

The service being pitched was production of live or on-demand council meetings online. The company, Granicus, even posts agendas and supplementary documents. Viewers can click on specific items of interest rather than plowing through one long agenda.

The company has 500 clients, regional sales manager Hilda Stevens said, including Somerville and Brick in New Jersey. Early signup carries discounts, she said, noting Brick got a 50 percent discount.

The cost is based on community population. Stevens cited for Plainfield a one-time $12,000 fee and $900 a month, before discounts.

Keyword searches, Twitter and Facebook are other options for users.

Stevens said Plainfield could be eligible for discounts from 15 to 40 percent.

But when she mentioned that the service had to be validated with the city’s IT team, the audience in City Hall Library broke into laughter. There is no “team” at present.

As with past presentations, it was unclear what the governing body was expected to do except to listen. There was no resolution up for consideration and if there had been, it would have had to come from the administration to the governing body. On at least one similar occasion, City Administrator Marc Dashield challenged the rationale for having such a presentation at a council meeting.

The company is based in San Francisco and Atlanta and its goal is advancing transparency in government. If Ms. Stevens traveled all that far for Monday’s meeting, bless her heart, as my late father used to say.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernice, I don't understand. Who brought this person in, the city council or the administration? If it was the city council, which member was it? It seems like it would make more sense for the newly-formed IT committee to look into this. There are several of these companies out there for them to look at. After reviewing and comparing the different options, etc., the IT committee could present their findings to the administration, and the administration could send out the RFP so that the companies could submit proposals. Why did the council allow it, given the agenda items?

12:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What the heck are they thinking? Isn't it the responsibilty of Council President to set the agenda? So why would something of this nature even be considered? This would only give more exposure to such a group of idiots wjen now only a small group of people actually are exposed to it.

If anything, it would be nice if in-house staff could at least post agendas and other documents on line.

Can you image the Mayor "Twittering"? Example twitters would include -
- I am now visiting the Senior Citizens Center to tell them what a great building we got for them
- I am now sitting at my desk waiting for JG to call me and tell me what to do next.
- Just sitting here thinking of what kind of free food I can give away at my next event.
- Just wondering how long it would take me to get to the hospital if something happened to me.
- Just sitting here waiting for a phone call. Hmmmm - the phone hasn't rang in 4 days.
- Sitting here thinking is Plainfield abbreviated plfd or pfld?

12:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Online council meetings"? Ridiculous. Any type of software implementation that needs informational content to be managed by someone requires time and attention that is lacking at City Hall. If the city can't even post a simple PDF file of the Council's agenda, never mind do it on a regular basis, they certainly can't handle this kind of service application. Not even if it is free.

Barbara Kerr

7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is a great idea, however, to other bloggers points, we don't even have a usable web site - so can you imagine council meetings online?

To the blogger who wrote about the mayor twittering - very clever. Actually, if she is elected in November, it at least may make the next four years enjoyable, because we know they will not be productive.

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why provide on-line video of council meetings when the Cityhas access to a cable channel.

If you don't
have Comcast, perhaps they could be picked up on the Cartoon Network since there's always a few good laughs and clowns during council meetings. I only know of the original Bozo the clown but the past 3 or 4 years has popped up a few imposters.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be beneficial to see the meeting as it is happening. If you watch it on cable, how do you know what ordinance is being discussed. All you hear is MC2009-13 or whatever. There is no identification of what is being discussed. Unless, of course, there are crawls or other identifies that tell anecdotal information during the meeting. Do you think?

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I offered my two red ones to another blog, but anyway...the IT committee should be charged with reviewing the pros and cons of this type of service, and also to look at ALL the companies that provide this type of service so that they can present the information to the administration and the council AND the public. I am glad that the council is NOT endorsing this particular company, because several of the others would do just fine. I am concerned about a sales person coming in to do a pitch so early on, as it gives the appearance of giving them an unfair advantage over other companies. The cost seems pretty high as well. All companies offer a significant discount to new customers "if we get in early"--it's built in, like, "Act today, and we will include this lovely set of Ginsu knives..." so it's not really a discount, in my opinion. I'm not against companies making a profit, but the "hard sell" is distasteful, and the "up to 40%" is very vague. Once they see that they are competing with 10 or 12 other companies for our business, they will have to negotiate and make a better offer, and we can negotiate a deal that works better for us. They need to be thoroughly researched and vetted and if they give campaign contributions to any of the politicians in New Jersey (or if they wheel contributions around the state), they should not be utilized. Pay to play has destroyed this state, so it must end, and it can end in Plainfield. Also, any service would have to include the regular television option, as a large segment of Plainfield's population does not have regular computer access and will not be logging on from the Alps or the Caribbean. I just negotiated a used car for myself, so negotiations are fresh in my mind--I had the leverage to walk away from any deal that I didn't find in my interest, and I did. The negotiations were handled via email and telephone up to a certain point, and if a dealer did not agree to negotiate in the way that I wanted, I said thank you and moved on. The city has the leverage of being able to get dozens of companies to send in RFPs on this. Never go for the first one to make the offer.


1:44 PM  

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