Town Council meeting video, 2-25-2019, UPDATED to reflect a what I sincerely hope is a change in Town policy

Posted on February 26, 2019

This post is not yet complete.  It will change over the course of today (2/26/2019) as I add more video segments.  At present, it gives you immediate access to video of the MAC “visual preference survey” portion of last night’s Town Council meeting .

EDIT:  The Town has posted its own video of last night’s meeting, as of about noon today.  That’s a first, as you can see by looking at the meetings calendar to see that the next-most-recent Town Council video dates back to 1/7/2019. If this rapid turnaround reflects a new policy, then it is a material and welcome change.  As of now, it appears that the Town has moved from a policy of holding the videos of meetings for months before posting, to a policy of releasing them immediately.

Click the meetings calendar link above, then click the video link to get to the Town’s recording of last night’s meeting.  If you can’t get the video to play, try using the Google Chrome browser.  On my system, that’s the only browser that works with the Town’s video host.

Just for fun, here’s a snapshot of the next most recent Town Council meeting video available as of 2/26/2019.

In addition, at this meeting, the Town Manager announced that Vienna will now post an audio recording of every meeting that they do not routinely film.  So there will be some recording — video or audio — of all the Town’s public meeting from now on.

With tongue firmly in cheek, I have to say, what bad luck on my part.  Just two weeks ago I bought a high-quality shotgun microphone so I could start posting recordings of these meetings, as is my right under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.  Had to learn how to use Audacity software to clean up the recordings so they were intelligible.

And now, a scant two weeks later, the Town has changed its approach, in a way that makes what I was doing almost completely unnecessary.

So my expensive shotgun microphone is now just an ugly paperweight.

I have to say a few things about this.

First, the Town’s video is better than what I could capture from their live streaming.  (The live streaming, as noted below, is glitchy.)  You are better off watching the meeting by clicking through the meetings calendar link above.  So there is no need to view the inferior-quality embedded video below.

Second, the fact that they can post these the next day means that they could have been doing this all along.  Prior to this, the videos were consistently posted a month or two after the meeting.   Wouldn’t you love to know if that was a matter of policy, or whether they just figured that nobody cared?

Third, I’m not sure whether I’m going to stop making and posting audio recordings or not.   And I have to admit, that’s because I really do mistrust the Town government that much.  On the one hand, it’s a hassle.  On the other hand, sometimes having an independent source of information is worthwhile.  The most revealing things to come out of my recordings so far have been tiny little slips of the tongue, things that could easily be dropped from a recording — particularly audio — without anyone noticing.  So I’ll have to think about that a bit.

There is still a crying need for a detailed index to match the recording, so that people can find what they want to listen to without having to wade through the entire recording.  It’s kind of nuts that I was doing that by hand, in an Excel spreadsheet, for my recordings.  There seems to be no shortage of audio transcription services and software.  Maybe, now that the Town is doing this, I’ll focus on that aspect of it.

But the upshot is, you can skip the rest of this.  If the Town will now faithfully record these meeting and publish the recordings the next working day, there’s no need to rely on a private citizen to do that.

The remainder of my original post follows.

Our Town Council discussed the raw results of the MAC “visual preference survey” last night.   I have begun posting video of the MAC-relevant sections on YouTube, linked below.

Credit for the video below goes to Town staff.  Blame for most (but not all) of the problems with this video belongs to me.  I merely captured and posted the video that the Town live-streamed.  The audio is superb.  The video below is grainy because I downgraded the quality in order to keep the file size down.  So that’s my fault.  But in addition, the Town’s live-streaming is glitchy.  As you can see from the video, it just cuts out, at random times, for random duration.  I verified with another live-streamer that these lapses are glitches in the source (the Town’s video feed), not the end user setup.   There’s nothing I can do to fill in the gaps in the video below.  I note that, as the evening wore on, the gaps become less frequent, suggesting that there is probably a capacity constraint with the source (Granicus).  In any case, the gaps in the video recording below are an artifact of long-standing problems with the Town’s streaming.

Here are a few things to note, both in terms of the technology and process, and in terms of the content.

Technology and process issues.  For Town Council and Planning Commission meetings, the Town broadcasts the video (Cox channel 27, Verizon FIOS channel 38) and live-streams it at:   I can only get the live-streaming to work in Chrome, not in other browsers, but that may be some fault of my elderly computer and software setup.  And, as noted, it is prone to interruptions.

The Town also eventually posts that video on-line so that it can be replayed.  (Again, only Chrome works for me, other browsers may or may not work for you.)  You can find those videos by clicking the links on this page on the Town’s website.

I say “eventually” because, in the past, it typically took months for those videos to show up.  For example, today (2/26/2019), the most recent Town Council meeting you could watch is from 1/7/2019, or just shy of two months ago.  Here’s a screen shot of that — the far right column is the posting for the video.

For other Town meetings there was no recording at all. For “work sessions” of the Town Council or Planning Commission, or for meetings of any of the other public boards of the Town of Vienna — you are (or were, see below) on your own.   The Town would eventually publish the minutes of the meeting — again, see above with respect to timeliness.  Minutes typically become publicly available some months after the meeting occurred.

So, in the past, the only way to know to know what went on in a Town public meeting in a timely fashion, or in some cases, at all, was to attend the meeting in person.  (Or to know someone who did and would fill you in on the details).

This is why I began making audio recordings of the meetings, such as this one.  It was the only way to provide some way for those who did not attend to hear, in detail, what went on.

That said, later in this meeting, the Town Manager revealed that the Town is now going to make audio recordings of all of the meeting, and make those  publicly available.  So that’s a change for the better.  The video for these meetings is mostly (but not entirely) unnecessary.   Clear audio carries most of the information, and I applaud the decision to provide audio recordings in a timely fashion.

I also note that this process has already begun.  Right now, on the Town’s website, they list video for the 2/15/2018 Board of Architectural Review work session.   That isn’t actually video, it’s a link to an audio record.  Providing any recording of those sessions is a first for the Town, and having that posted represents a high-water mark for timeliness.

The Town’s audio for that 2/15/2019 meeting is better than mine.  You can hear it at this link.  (Again, only Chrome works for me, but YMMV).  That said, there’s only so much you can do if the participants won’t use their microphones.  And what you get from the Town is the recording, with no notes as to what was said, when.

Arguably, you get the best of all worlds if you combine the Town’s professional audio with my detailed notes on what happened when.   The times listed in my notes may not correspond exactly to the Town’s audio, because we started recording at different times.  But they will give you a rough guide as to what was said, when.

2019-02-15 BAR index to recording