Rebuttal statements supporting the use of Internet based viewing of our cooperative's board meetings.
[See below for a comparison of cost estimates.]
engaged Howard Barbour to write the con statement against this proposed bylaw
amendment to provide our member-owners with video of our board
Howard stated this amendment "does not belong in our bylaws."Rebuttal:
False! OPALCO's attorney's found no reason to exclude this
proposed amendment from being added to our bylaws. Their memorandum was made public on our co-op's website in the February 2014 board packet and it stated in part
upon a review of state law, the OPALCO Articles and Bylaws, we find no
legal objection to this member-proposed Bylaw amendment or its form."You can read our co-op attorneys' memorandum here:
Adding this amendment to our bylaws creates a contractual right of our
cooperative owners to have better access to our board meetings.
Howard stated "Board packets and minutes are available to members online."Rebuttal:
True, but anyone who has served on a board or has attended an
OPALCO board meeting knows that minutes intentionally do not include
details of what each board director offered to discussions or why they
voted as they did. Being able to view & hear the
discussion allows all our co-op owners (whether they live here full- or part-time) to make well informed choices
of whom to retain on our board when they vote. It is integral to a healthy democratic
process to be able to view such deliberations unfiltered and observe the
quality of each board director's contributions. Board packets and minutes don't provide that.
Howard stated "OPALCO would have to purchase mobile equipment, subject to wear and tear from travel."Rebuttal:
All that is needed to video record board meetings is a digital
camera and a stand to put it on. An external conference tabletop
microphone could also be used. Relatively inexpensive digital
camcorders are rugged and fit easily into a padded carrying case.
Almost everything is subject to wear and tear from
travel. I believe we can anticipate that our quality staff will
have little trouble treating the equipment with the necessary care.
Numerous portable video conferencing solutions that would allow
members to speak to the board are available, but video conferencing is
not required by this proposed amendment.
Howard stated "A staff member would be removed from regular duties to run the equipment, edit and post the video."Rebuttal:
It would take maybe 5 minutes max to setup the
video camera and turn it on. The camera could be left to run
or turned off and on with a remote control by staff members who
regularly attend all board meetings anyway.
proposed amendment states the videos may not be edited except to
exclude breaks and executive sessions. No editing required other
than to determine the start and end of the video. Transfer from
the camera to computer would be as simple as cabling the camera to a
computer and starting a simple transfer process. Conversion and
uploading of the video to a web server could mostly be automated.
this requires staff to babysit the process. Our co-op already
has a software IT person and this would not be a huge use of their time
and they have up to 7 days to post the video.
Howard stated: "Quality would vary and very few members would actually view the videos."
recording and storage quality would be relatively consistent and
listening and viewing quality over the Internet would depend on speeds
of an individual's home network, computer and broadband connection.
Also, our public libraries have fiber-fed facilities where good quality
web-based viewing is possible.
We have had OPALCO board meetings
where there was only standing room left and owners outside the meeting room door. If
the choice is expensive capital expansion to our meeting rooms or
providing relatively inexpensive video over the Internet then this amendment is a better use of our owner's capital.
Howard stated: "This measure is not a prudent use of Co-op resources."Maximizing member
attendance is an explicit policy of our co-op and in harmony with our
Policy 11.2.1 states: "It shall be the policy of OPALCO to encourage maximum member attendance at all board meetings."
)Board directors are paid to attend
meetings on behalf of our co-op and that is a larger expense to us than
making videos of the meetings available on the Internet. Video
conferencing which would allow member-owners a chance to offer input to
the board does not have to be significantly expensive. This
amendment will increase the number of owners who are able to observe
our board meetings.
Reducing geographic barriers, reducing greenhouse gas emissions driving to and from board meetings on other islands, reducing
barriers due to our co-op owners' financial and time constraints and allowing
them to observe our democratically elected board
well worth the relatively minor cost of allowing remote access to view our board meetings over
board director during a board meeting break stated to several of us that
at the point our cooperative had spent $900,000 on the broadband
initiative study "about 1/3 [$300,000] of that was pissed away."
If our board can waste our capital in amounts like that why
shouldn't our owners be allowed to spend a tiny fraction of that
amount ensuring our board meetings can be observed by all members who desire
[I am pro-broadband and only give that example
to bring home the point that the board has the legal right to waste our
capital and we as owner's have a right to specify how our capital is used through bylaw amendments like this.]Estimated costs of web-based video recording and on-demand playback on the Internet:
cost of digital camcorder with Flash memory card to record for 17
hours, charger and transfer cable $300. Stand $17. Padded camcorder kit bag $10.
Total one-time cost of equipment needed to record video estimated at $327
(one time cost per member 29 cents
computers sold today come with the necessary software to transfer video
from camcorder to computer and edit the start and stop of a video
and transfer / convert it for playback on a web-server. A
dedicated computer would not be needed unless management wants one.
Web server choices range from free options like YouTube or Vimeo
or monthly fee services.
described above the labor needed to record and upload the video to make
it available for viewing by our member-owners could be minimal and
not require extra staff.Estimated
costs of video conferencing (this is not required by this proposed
amendment and left to the board whether to implement):
purpose of video conferencing would be to allow our member-owners to
offer input as permitted by the board and encouraged by our cooperative
principles without having to take an entire day travelling to another
island to attend the board meetings. This proposed amendment
makes this an option to implement at the discretion of our board.
are web-based video
conferencing options that support up to 200 attendees for $78 /
month and include recording of the meetings for playback later by
member-owners. That averages out to 8.5 cents per year
for every residential and commercial member. A digital camcorder or camera can
be connected to a networked notebook computer for use with live
web-based audio-video conferencing.
The county uses "AV Capture
All" which allows live and recorded video playback of meetings with
sophisticated document storage and tagging to video content.
These videos use web browser access over the Internet.
The county clerk responsible for note taking can operate the
camera from a computer / laptop. It doesn't require extra staff to do this. There are newer and better
solutions, but for pricing see here
Pricing for installation, training & unlimited support ranges from
$180, $360 to $540 per month with annual subscriptions. This does
not include the cost of equipment.
Our co-op already has optical
fiber-connected facilities with meeting rooms in our Eastsound and
Friday Harbor offices. The Lopez Library community room which is
fiber-fed with our co-op broadband fiber has video conferencing
equipment and might be a place to hold board meetings that could allow
remote attendance from other islands. Typically board meetings on
Lopez are held at the fire station, Woodmen Hall, or Lopez Islander
Resort depending on availability. It is always a possibility
that board meetings on Lopez are only available using Internet
based video playback until such time as the board desires video
conferencing. Remember in this proposed bylaw amendment video
conferencing is an option left to the discretion of the board.Comparing cost estimates of Internet web-based viewing our board meetings:
comparison OPALCO's estimated costs are $40,000 capital and 7,980 per year for labor with cost of living increases.
I had to fill out an information request form just to obtain a
breakdown of those costs that I could share with our member-owners.
Here is what was provided by staff:
"The following cost estimate for webstreaming board meetings was submitted by technical services staff:
Roving Meeting Package: All the hardware and software to record the meeting and then upload
to the OPALCO website after the meeting for member viewing.
Projected costs for this option are as follows:
Capital Costs (equipment, install,
Operational Costs (2 staff x 8 hours each x 12 meetings) $ 7,980
$47,980 / year 1
(3% average COL increase) $ 8,200 / year 2
webstreaming and video conferencing for as low as $78 per month
and less than $500 in one-time equipment costs and little to no staff
time needed vs $40,000 equipment and $7,980+ labor costs per year.
Those labor costs for 2 staff for 16 hours per meeting are not
realistic given there is no need to do significant editing and by
comparison our county's system does not need extra staff time to
operate their system.
Our management estimate seems over the top just to do
webstreaming (not video conferencing). That
estimate might give you some idea why the board's broadband
study cost our member-owners over $1.2 million. Averaging out to
over $108 extracted from every energy member (counting residential and
consider voting yes
to this amendment. It will be a great
benefit to our cooperative and help fulfill our cooperative principles
and operational Policy 11. Being able to view video on-demand at
our member-owners' convenience whether at home or at a library helps
all of us to be engaged in our cooperative and make well informed decsions during our elections.
OPALCO member-owner & resident since 1971