Asleep at the wheel – minutes and videos missing from city website – why can’t the clerk produce the minutes in less than seven months?

9 Sep

I’ve been trying to follow the efforts of a group called “Truth Matters Chico”, ex city employees who are asking sticky questions.  One thing that’s come up as a result of their chain rattling is that months of minutes and videos are missing from the city council website.  I mean, we can’t even see what measures were passed or failed, who voted how, nothing. A news reporter gets a story up in 24 – 48 hours – sometimes less – why can’t the clerk’s office get the minutes posted in less than seven months?

If you go to the city website, follow the links through “minutes and agendas,” you will find that there are no minutes posted pasted February (clerk Debbie Presson promised that the Jan/Feb minutes would be posted by today).  Minutes can take a lot of forms – some cities even use court reporter machines to capture every single word.  Our minutes, lately, have just been simple reports about the business that took place at the meeting – what issues were discussed, what actions were taken, who voted how. 

If you want the play-by-play, you used to be able to watch the video online.  Suddenly the video feed is acting up, not only in the archives, but I’ve had trouble watching the meetings live.  It says to update my browser, etc, but my browser has been updated. For one thing, why am I able to view some videos but not others? The website used to work great, what’ the hitch?

While the video is good to have for the clerk to check in cases of doubt, or when you want to watch a hearing, or listen to the councilors’ reasoning behind a vote,  the video can also be onerous to wade through when all you want is the motion and the vote. This simple information  ought to be available within seven days of a meeting, as far as I’m concerned. We need the minutes to be posted promptly and consistently.   In Willows you get it within 30 days, and you can view old minutes years back.

http://www.cityofwillows.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={DAE0F6FE-EC82-4EE8-BFB7-971C8E0CD12D}

Wow, their reports are pretty thorough. Check out their school district minutes:

http://www.willowsunified.org/Board-of-Trustees/Agendas–Minutes-2013-14/index.html

But we wait seven months?  I e-mailed Gruendl, Sorensen and clerk Debbie Presson, and here are their replies:

From Sorensen:
Juanita: 

 
I just successfully watched several of the different videos in that date range at the following location:
 
One note: If you’re using some other browser, try Internet Explorer. I notice that Google Chrome (which is what I normally use) does not work reliably with Granicus. 
 
The January and February minutes were just approved at the last Council meeting and must not be posted to Granicus, yet. You can see those minutes under item 2.3 on the Sept 3 meeting agenda:
The next batch of minutes for approval should post with the 09/17/2013 meeting agenda, and once approved by Council, would then be posted in Granicus….. 
Here Presson informs us she’s just loaded the January and February minutes:
Hi Mark and Juanita.
 
I just uploaded the minutes of January 24, January 29, February 5 and February 19 and they should be available for viewing under “Minutes and Agendas”/City Council/”View Meetings Online.”  I found that the videos are available as well.
 
As Mark mentioned, I am working on the completion of the rest of the minutes. 
 
Have a great weekend.
And Gruendl chimes in:
I hope that Debbie and Mark were able to answer your question as well as you can see these dates. I would only add that the city will be updating Granicus so that any browser will work for video streaming as others have had this complaint, as well as Apple operating systems have trouble with Granicus and the update will address all of these issues (I hope, it is technology after all and it never seems to do what it was intended to do).
 
My response:
(Please forward to the entire council)
 

Thanks Scott, Mark, Debbie,  for your response to my question,

 
I have had trouble, on and off, over the past few months viewing videos on the city website, and I’ve had trouble watching the meetings live. I’ve been told repeatedly I needed to update my browser, I’ve updated when appropriate, but I’ve still had the same problems.   This is really new – for several years, that website worked almost without a hitch. Sometimes it still works without a hitch. 
 
Why suddenly it doesn’t work with Google Chrome? Since when? 
 

As for the minutes, why does it take so long to post these? Look at the city of Willows website here:

http://www.cityofwillows.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={DAE0F6FE-EC82-4EE8-BFB7-971C8E0CD12D}

What I am asking for in “minutes” is a summary of the actions taken, what exact motions were made, who voted which way, did they pass, etc. We’re not getting verbatim minutes, so I’m wondering, why does it take seven months to post the minutes? 

 

In past, you councilors have been allowed to peruse the minutes forever, striking comments, revising stuff. Is this still the case? If so, why? 

 

Finally, I know there is a closed session discussion regarding contracts tonight, so I want to remind you council members – you’ve laid off people, cut positions, and cut services. You’ve sat watch over the illegal and vindictive closure of Bidwell Park – that’s your legacy.  Now it’s time to cut pensions and benefits – tell employees they have to pay for their own packages. You need to remember that this city spends somewhere around $10 million paying for pensions and benefits for people who make well beyond the average wages for private sector taxpayers. Scott, you’ve complained about the $900,000 “lost” to the defeat of Measure J – that’s ridiculous, in the face of the money you’ve handed to city employees in the way of pensions and benefits. You don’t like criticism – do a better job!

 

Sincerely, Juanita Sumner

I had to add that last bit about the contract talks, because I think it relates. They’ve made excuses about being short of staff – because they’ve laid off the worker bees. Now they have the nerve to tell us the work can’t get done, but they continue to collect their awesome (and I mean that in the sense of “mind-blowing”) salaries. 

 

I’ll keep us posted.

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5 Responses to “Asleep at the wheel – minutes and videos missing from city website – why can’t the clerk produce the minutes in less than seven months?”

  1. Mary September 9, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Did you see Gruendl’s quote in the September 5 CNR article “A Matter of Minutes”?
    http://www.newsreview.com/chico/content?oid=11292006

    Mayor Scott Gruendl also questions the urgency of updating the council minutes. “People just are too lazy to watch a council recording,” he said by email. “While the minutes are the official record of the council, there is absolutely no way to deny what is in a video recording.”

    He also noted that requests for public documents take precedent over typing up and posting the council-meeting minutes.

    “The folks that prepare the minutes are also the ones that must respond to the info requests,” he said. “When one puts these two points together, well, it just looks like some people are trying to make life difficult for a couple of hard-working city clerks, and that is nothing more than being mean.”

    • Juanita Sumner September 9, 2013 at 10:24 am #

      “just too lazy” – there’s our mayor! He’s not being mean, he’s just prodding us to be better people – I feel blessed, yesirreee!

      What I want to know is, just exactly what goes into “preparing the minutes”? So far all I have from Presson is her assurance that’s she’s passed my e-mail on to the full council, no response to my question about why it takes so long to prepare the minutes. Nothing yet from Sorensen or Gruendl, I’ll get back if I get anything from them.

      You know, by the way, I don’t read the newspapers as much these days since Gruendl said at a recent meeting you can’t believe everything you read in the newspaper.

      • Mary September 9, 2013 at 10:36 am #

        Sort of makes me want to weep…

      • Juanita Sumner September 9, 2013 at 11:03 am #

        Thanks so much Mary, for sharing my posts. This has been a long time coming, I’ve been waiting for all this to bust – I’ve known for a long time that things are not copacetic Downtown, and something needed to give. This reminds me of an intervention, and yeah, that’s emotional. We had to sit on one of my relatives, we didn’t know how else to make him listen, so us kids just mobbed him onto the floor, giggling and crying at the same time, and we sat on him, trying not to hurt him. I can laugh now, but that was tough. This will be tough too, no doubt. But I keep telling myself, we can get Chico back to a decent place to live for working families, that’s my hope. We can make the city a good employer again – I remember when the city, and CARD, were good, reliable employers for young people entering the work force. Now it’s become a trough out of which only the elite wine and dine. That’s got to stop.

        Here’s some Celia Cruz – no hay que llorar, que la vida es un carnaval! Don’t cry, life is good! Like a party! Que al mal tiempo una buena cara – keep a brave face, a pretty face, when things are bad. Manos arriba – hands up! Remember, when you raise your hands over your shoulders, you raise your heart rate, and that’s GOOD!

        Now, having shook my butt really good, I am going to get a steaming cup of coffee, and try to read that article in the N&R, maybe somewhere in there is the answer to my question.

  2. Mary September 9, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Reblogged this on Truth Matters, Chico!.

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