Dang, moving fast. Next topic: Public participation in remote city council (and other city) meetings. www-static.bouldercolorado.gov/docs/Recommend…
20 participants in a feedback session on this topic
12 emails to council on this topic (plus occasional feedback throughout the pandemic)
People generally like it: It's more convenient, not as intimidating as speaking in public
But there are "suggestions for improvement"
Such as: No ability to use video, can’t see council members while you speak, no social aspect, sign-up / speaking notification can be tricky
Here's what's been done / being done so far:
Shrink the timer during speaking so city council members can be seen
Allow presentations from speakers; they will not be broadcast on Channel 8 or livestream
Interpretation (provided as needed)
Closed captioning (already on Channel 8, livestream; researching options for Zoom)
Easier sign-up (new links Oct. 14)
Less time for rules (may stop reading these unless there are a lot of new speakersl)
Change in emails winners of the open comment lottery receive
Training and navigation videos for the public (staff developing work plan)
RE: speaker presentations, those weren't broadcast at in-person meetings, either, bc of FCC rules, so no big change there. Also, they'll have to be submitted ahead of time. Again, same as in-person
Now we're going over changes that council has to weigh in on tonight. We'll do those one at a time.
1. Should we allow online participation after in-person meetings resume? (staff already planning on this and the engagement subcommittee was on board)
Brockett: Supports. We did do this a handful of years ago. Phone call-in participation. We didn't get much participation then but I bet we will now.
Rest of council cool with it, too.
2. Should council members be encouraged to leave video on when public is speaking?

Lots of feedback on this, Sarah Huntley says. Public wants to see council reactions.
Swetlik: In chambers, we made our best effort to stick around when the public was speaking. So it's probably best practice to leave camera on during public testimony and take breaks during staff presentations instead.
Young: At in-person meetings, sometimes we'd get emails from ppl saying they didn't want us to eat during meetings, but that was the only time we could.

What about now? Eating on camera "tends to be more accentuated."
I do still remember Tom Carr chewing. It haunts me.
Huntley: We did discuss this. I think the hope is that open comment is a limited time and there are presentations in between public hearings.

"I don't know what the solution is."
The recommendation is to leave your camera on as much as possible during public testimony, Huntley says. But it's up to council.
Young: I need to eat at a certain time, and often that is during public comment. Can we just let people know that's what's going on? "I'm still here and listening but having dinner" or something like that.
She must eat while you talk! Rage aids digestion.
I've always said this.
Brockett: I'm fine with saying we should generally try to keep the camera on as much as possible during public testimony. It's important it not be "an absolute expectation," that you're bad if you don't have your camera on.
Brockett: I'm hypoglycemic. I have to eat when I need to eat. I'd rather people see a blank box than my face chewing.
"None of us are going to leave the room for 20 min, right? Absolutely not."

Aww, so young and naive.
Nagle: Right now I'm about to turn my camera off bc my husband cooked for me. I'm not going to let my food get cold. "We can all commit to doing our best but I gotta eat when I gotta eat."
Wallach on that train as well: "When you have a meeting that goes from 6 o'clock" there's going to be times when you take a break to eat, stretch or — occasionally — drink a beer.

Actually.... thanks for the idea. I'll have one right now.
Fun fact: The Camera had (has?) a one-drink-per-shift maximum.
Weaver: "We are human, believe it or not. That means we'll need a break sometime."
Brockett: I feel we're doing a pretty good job at this already.
Friend asking about what the livestream shows during staff presentations.
Huntley: Typically, it's the presentation and just a few council member videos showing up on video.
Huntley: "Generally speaking, that's a better time to turn off your camera. What we're hearing from the community is that they want to have that interaction with you when they're speaking."
3. Should we allow public speakers to share video when they speak?

Big request of community, Huntley says. They want connection and non-verbal communication.
But it's technically and legally challenging. Remember when the city was zoom-bombed? I wasn't there but apparently ppl showed "inappropriate" activity, Huntley says.
If the city has to decide what's OK and not, that's a legal issue.
Staff suggesting IF we allow video of speakers, anyone testifying has to use a pre-approved background.
"Something generic," Huntley says.

OR a plain wall behind them
It won't stop someone from doing something "with their person or their hands," Huntley says. So there is risk.
It's technically tricky, too, because speakers have to be "promoted" from participate to attendee in order to use their video, so it will add time.
Huntley: Right now, the process is equitable to everybody. They might not like it, but it's equitable.

This touches on concerns that when we return to in-person meetings, not allowing video won't put those speakers on par with remote participants. So maybe we'll allow video then
Swetlik likes that idea, but not doing video sooner. "We've had 5-hour testimony" and to add an hour to that simply to allow video is "probably an undue burden."
You can usually tell how people feel from their voice, Swetlik says.
Young: Could people record a video and have it played? Or could a photo of the person be provided instead of just their name on the blank square?
Huntley: When we had disruptors in that one meeting and we turned off their camera, "at least one had a pornographic image .... as a still photo."

Sorry I missed that.
Or maybe not. Depends on the image, I guess.
Huntley: It still puts staff in the position of making a content-based decision. "I believe most of our community members would act in good faith, but if we have someone who doesn't" it puts staff in an awkward legal spot.
Wallach: What's the actual legal risk involved besides being required to show a video or presentation that we did not show?
Carr: We'd be liable for a violation of Constitutional rights. You're subject to damages and attorney's fees.
Wallach: How would those damages be calculated?
Carr: It's usually attorney's fees. "I'm v uncomfortable with a staff member deciding what is and isn't appropriate speech."
Wallach: Me, too, but we're seeing examples of people using inappropriate speech. "Vulgarities, disparagement of a very personal nature."

It's unfortunate to not be able to address that.
Apparently that will be addressed later.
So... no video right now? I'm pretty sure that's what they decided.
4. (?) Should we require council members to use consistent background?

Some of them are "busy" and distracting.
Wallach: I don't see this as an issue
Nagle: "I think it's a bit of an overreach of what we're doing."
Weaver: "I'm hopeful in a few months we'll be back in chambers." doesn't want to mess with this item now.
5. Should council commit to a consistent cut-off of speakers to avoid appearance of favoritism?

Community members are frustrated at the perception that some speakers get to go over and some don't, Huntley says.
Current policy is to, as Huntley says, "let people finish their thought"
Friend: I was in favor of cutting people off at 2 min bc I have experienced it as a constituent. If someone is raging, they pretty well get cut off, and if someone is saying something about the arts or whatever, they get an extra 20 seconds.
"For equity, I would just cut it." and it would help meetings be more efficient, she says.
Yates: I think Weaver's done a good job of cutting ppl off at 2:03 or 2:07 and letting people finish their sentence. "Sometimes ppl stumble and bumble" in the first 10-15 seconds, so he gives them extra time.

"I really haven't seen abuse of this."
It would be different if we had a history of people talking for 2:30 min or 2:45 or 3 min. But we don't, he says.
Wallach: "I don't see any pattern of cutting people off based on their views."
Weaver: I try and make sure it doesn't go much beyond 2 min. "The discretion is really more about process for them than substance. ... I feel like my job is to let people get their message to us. If I'm not doing a good job in some subject area, let me know."
So that's a no to hard cutoffs.
6. Should we create networking for participants during or before meetings? (Chat function, breakout rooms, etc.)

"Folks who regularly come to meetings are really missing social connection," Huntley says.
Huntley: We'd have to change the Zoom platform we're using to allow breakout rooms. We picked this one because of security. And we'd have to staff those rooms.
Huntley: "We have one community member who has repeatedly asked us for the name, email addresses, etc. of everyone signed up for open comment." We don't provide that and it would "be chilling" for some if we did.
No appetite for this one. But Young suggests that if speakers want to congregate, they can give their email address out during the meeting and host their own zoom.
"It would be on the members of the public to gather, making it kind of more like real life in its organic nature," she says.
What number are we on now? 7?

7. Should the public be given access to Zoom's chat feature?
Staff and subcommittee both recommending No on this one.
Huntley: "It can be v distracting" to have the chat going and it creates another thing that has to be public record. And if you are participating by telephone, you don't have access to that.
Q&A function IS available for Zoom participants, Weaver reminds us.

Nobody wants to give public the chat access. Moving on.
8(?) Should the Zoom link be shared with anyone who wants to watch, not just participants?

Right now, I and other media get this link. And if you sign up to speak, you get the link.
Huntley says the link is just in case there's a technical difficulty with the livestream. Oops... it's my go-to. Too many problems with the livestream to depend on it.
Staff and subcommittee recommended against sharing the link due to the potential for disruption "often in an automated means," as Huntley says.

"In a case like tonight," where we didn't have YouTube as a backup I would have recommended sharing the link.
Swetlik: "I haven't been super pleased with the reliability of Channel 8 since we've had to go online."
Maybe we can decide how long we go without Channel 8 working before we post that link? he suggests. "If we're not going to have the reliability that we have when we're in council chambers, maybe we should address that."
Brockett: If we give out the Zoom link on demand, what would be the risk or downsides to having additional ppl as attendees?
Huntley: "It creates a much longer, potentially, attendee list. As the meeting host on the back end, it's already challenging to find those folks on the queue" in meetings with public testimony. Idk whether we're talking 10 or 50 ppl.
Huntley: We ask people not to share that link, but they do. The second meeting we had disruptors in, it's because a particular group had broadcast the link and asked their supporters to join.
"We did have a problem. We were able to contain it."
Brockett wants to provide the Zoom link on demand.
Wallach also concerned about the lack of reliability "so people are not scrambling to find some way to see the meeting."
Huntley: Reliability issues occur "for a variety of reasons." Tonight, it's "a fiber issue."

"We are attempting to use our equipment in a whole new way that was not envisioned" when it was purchased and set up.
Offers an apology to the community.
"We have a good redundancy in our YouTube channel," Huntley says.

I always forget about the YouTube. Good reminder.
Swetlik asks again that council share the Zoom link past a certain point, TBD, if the meeting goes on without a Channel 8 livestream.
Friend: "I felt pretty uncomfortable tonight knowing Channel 8 wasn't up and still going forward."
Weaver good with that, too.
Friend q: Can Channel 8 not just show the YouTube channel?
Huntley: I'll need to ask about that.
Young's suggestion: Given the redundancies that we do have, especially the YouTube option, we could provide the Zoom link if we get to a public hearing without Channel 8 broadcast. That's what ppl really want to participate in.
I disagree. As does Swetlik: "Tonight, I thought most of what we were talking about was pretty critical." This wouldn't apply to study sessions.
Young: I didn't think that through.
Joseph: Do we have a cap on how many ppl can be in our Zoom?
Huntley: 500
Joseph: I'm not sure it's appropriate to give out the link. What happens to person 501?

But she also doesn't see the security risk, given that people can't use video or audio to disrupt the meeting.
Huntley: There are built-in measures to prevent disruptions from happening, "assuming you have a savvy meeting facilitator."

Would-be disruptors "tried some pretty creative ways" to get around that.
I wanna know!
Huntley: We've not hit 500 people so far. We did get up to 400 on one of the Zoom briefings we did.
Friend: There is a capacity limit to in-person meetings as well. So that's similar to IRL.

True. They have hit capacity at several meetings I've been to.
So the meeting link won't be provided unless there's a technical issue. When it will be shared, in that event, is TBD.
Council now going to address the cursing that public members did during last week's meeting.
Or as Yates calls it, "abusive language."
Yates: "People can say whatever they want to council members. We all signed up for this."
But it's a different story for staff. Some disrespectful things were said. I wish I had spoken up, Yates says. As council, we should consider if we want to address verbal attacks on staff.
Suggests council look at the rules of decorum for meetings. Apparently he looked them up last week to try and "restrict" what was being said but there wasn't anything that allowed him to "cut those people off."
Asks Carr to look up what council can do without violating the First Amendment.
Yates: "I think we need to look at ourselves as well. If you have someone expressing themselves in those desperate terms, I think you need to consider the fact there may be some powerlessness that person feels."
"We should do some reflection on why it is some ppl in our community feel the only way they can communicate is through that very challenging language." Perhaps we can do some engagement.
Friend: When I was coming to speak to council, "I felt not seen and not heard." Especially when you're talking about something "desperate" it can get emotional.
"We shouldn't treat our community members on a first class or second class basis." I want us to think, do we return calls and emails with equity? Are we giving everyone a chance to engage so they don't show up on Tuesdays "wanting to explode"
Friend: "I don't think working for the city of Boulder should mean you are chronically submitted to verbal abuse." We've lost staff members ... I've seen it on the CU South project.
Weaver: This is a knotty issue that has been dealt with by many councils.
Weaver: If it's a small group and someone starts abusing staff, I usually cut them off. In council meetings, I usually let it go on and "try and pipe up" immediately afterwards without "calling down" the speaker. Instead, remind the speakers to come of decorum.
"We have been very permissive over time," Weaver says, with language.

HAHA he's talking about Seth Brigham's famous disrobing in council chambers. He was escorted out after, but not disrupted during.
Wallach: "I'm very regretful at our collective inaction" at the "abusive comments" that were made last week.
Disagrees with Weaver; we shouldn't allow abusive speech to staff during meetings. "Our staff should not be treated as pinatas."

"It doesn't mean you cannot express yourself with passion (or) be critical."
It's appropriate to say to speakers, this is inappropriate behavior, Wallach says. "I find that to be intolerable."
This is a really interesting issue, bc staff do get raked over the coals. But I also think not all staff is created equal. Tom Carr and Jane Brautigam have massive amounts of power (and pay to match) so criticizing them is not the same as criticizing like a project manager.
Of course, this is about abusive language. I'm not saying it's OK to call them names. It's not OK to call anyone names.

Criticize BEHAVIOR, not PERSONS.
Brockett saying council should be a little more proactive on stopping abusive language of staff or other members of the public. But we need to be careful in what we classify as vulgar language.
Hey, Weaver addressing the same thing I just tweeted: Is there a different threshold for senior staff like Carr and Brautigam than lower-level staff?
Brautigam: "If persons want to use naughty language and dirty words to throw epithets at staff, we can take that. But when ppl make comments that go to our very person that are cruel and hurtful, that crosses the line."
"It weighs heavy on you as a person when that happens repeatedly. ... I want to stand up not only for myself and Tom Carr but all staff members that work with us."
"It's fine to criticize the work that we do but not us as people," she says.
Carr: Jane and I are used to this and it's fine. I worry about our junior staff. It's hard to present in front of you. It's intimidating. Most people do it once in a year, once in a career.
"Coming to you should be the highlight of their year and often it's something they're very afraid of doing."
Man, I really missed whatever people said about Brautigam and/or Carr or other staff at last meeting. I had to mute bc my anxiety was off the charts.
Swetlik: Hateful speech is not how policy gets made. You're driving people away. "A lot of the testimony I agree with in principle, but in execution, I couldn't be more turned off."
"If you want to yell and scream," direct it at us on council, he says.
Young pushing back a bit on that. If we allow people to scream at us, it makes it easier for the next person to do that.

"Whatever we can do to draw a line toward more cooperative language ... I would be in favor of that."
The phrase "cooperative language" feels very 1984-y to me. But this is a super sticky issue, so I get what people are saying.
Weaver: "We need to get super clear on what constitutes abuse."
Suggests taking it up at the annual retreat, with specific examples of what crosses the line and what doesn't.
"I don't disagree with protecting staff. It's more of a question of how and when," Weaver says.
Maybe the mayor can read the rules of decorum at the beginning of the meeting, he suggests. They haven't really been needed; the behavior you're describing from last week is pretty rare.

Forgot he wasn't there; Yates was running things.
Yates: Why is it that some people feel that's the way they have to communicate? I don't want to lose sight of that aspect.
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