Dunes City Council will now be holding all meetings in local coffee shops. Simultaneously, councilors will be speaking at grocery stores, restaurants, cars, homes and Woahink Creek.
“The city council meetings are now streaming live on our website,” announced Dunes City Administrative Assistant Rapunzel Oberholtzer at the July 13 council meeting.
Dunes City is the region’s first local city council to live-stream meetings.
“We’re main-stream now!” Oberholtzer joked while making the announcement.
“I think it’s exciting,” said Dunes City Administrator Jamie Mills. “It’s an opportunity for greater transparency. The citizens will be able to watch the meetings in progress, and if they see something they want to comment on, they can dash down here and take part.”
Before the live streaming, citizens only had three options to watch the meetings: Attending, watching on cable channel 191 or viewing prerecorded meetings on the city’s website.
Each option had its own limitations. Many people couldn’t physically attend the meeting, others didn’t have access to cable and the videos currently on the website are posted days after the meeting is held.
Live streaming over the Internet allows anyone with a computer or smart phone to watch the meetings in real-time, anywhere.
A live stream is different than websites like Netflix or YouTube. In those instances, programs are pre-recorded and uploaded to a server, which a viewer can download at any time. These are referred to as “on-demand” streaming.
Live streaming, on the other hand, is the 21st century equivalent of live broadcast television.
The history of live streaming goes back to the mid-1990s. The first major stream took place in 1995 when the American League streamed its baseball playoffs to the world. Later that year, the city of Seattle streamed a symphony concert from the Paramount Theater.
The technology had issues, however. Personal computers did not hold the processing power to properly view the broadcasts and Internet was generally received by telephone land-lines, causing the videos to lag. The technology fell to the wayside.
It wasn’t until 2007 that advances in technology made live streaming practical. As home computers processed information faster and broadband Internet connections became the norm, live streaming began to be reintroduced with websites like UStream, which Dunes City uses for its council meetings.
Soon after, websites like Facebook began integrating the service into their repertoire and the technology has taken off.
Videographer Alan Campbell, owner of Campbell Productions, creates the Dunes City video streams. He had originally concocted the idea with former Dunes City Councilor Maury Sanders a few years ago.
“He kept asking ‘When can we go live?’” Campbell said. “I was thinking more of the cable company for live programming, like channel 191. But as I was looking at the technology and things were getting more affordable, I found out I could do this.”
Campbell and Mills see multiple advantages to having the meetings streamed.
Campbell recollected a time when a Florence attorney had to attend a Dunes council meeting. Campbell, who was testing the technology at the time, had the lawyer view it via the live stream instead.
“That could be a big thing for Dunes City. They still have to pay for an attorney, but they don’t have to pay for them to drive out,” he said.
Mills sees this as an opportunity to better connect with Dunes City citizens.
“Hopefully, it will get more interaction with residents. They can watch and feel more comfortable with speaking out to the city if there’s something they don’t like. We’re more in touch with our residents in what they do and don’t want for the community,” she said.
Other topics covered at the Thursday council meeting were a reminder that burning is closed as of June 15; warm water fishing in Woahink Creek is only allowed until October 1; and birthday wishes were given to Dunes City Permit Tech Jan Sapienza.
The Citizen of the Year Award was to be given to Ken and Wan Platt, but they could not attend. They will be given the award during the Aug. 10, which will, of course, be streamed live on the Internet.
To access the live stream, visit the Dunes City website at www.dunescityhall.com. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the UStream link. People can also access the videos via the UStream app, available to download on cell phones with Internet access. Viewing can begin 10 minutes before the meeting begins, which are held every second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m.
For more information, contact Dunes City Hall at 541-997-3338.