Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Minutes of April 15, 2010, meeting of Fayetteville Telecommunication Board

Telecommunications Board Meeting Minutes
April 15, 2010
Chairman Aubrey Shepherd called the meeting to order. Present were Fred Cusanelli, Marvin Hilton, Shepherd,  Justin Tennant and Brandon Leder. Russell and Bosseau had excused absences.
Also present were Lindsley Smith, city communication director; Mark Warren, interim administrator of Community Access Television; Jim Bemis, CAT producer; Roger Henry and David A. Young, members of the CAT Board of Directors.
Hilton moved to approve the minutes from the March meeting and Tennant seconded. All approved the agenda.

Hilton wanted to add recommending that funding for the Television center be increased by specifying a percentage of the franchise fees , to add discussion of Television Center programming airing at hotels, motels and apartments and that a schedule should be in the newspaper. Tennant moved for addition and Hilton seconded. All approved.
Shepherd reported no student present and no word from Professor Foley. Shepherd and Tennant discussed the possibility of UATV going to HD and the higher COX tier. Bemis and Shepherd discussed the lower tiers and availability to more potential viewers. Shepherd raised the question whether they should request the University to keep its station on the lower tier.
Hilton commented that he saw a problem with the UATV telecasting system. Shepherd reported seeing the Government Channel in black from Saturday to Monday. Lindsley Smith reported that COX was some of the problem for black out areas and it had nothing to do with the station. Shepherd responded that it was not just a neighborhood situation. Warren said he got no reports of CAT being off. Hilton suggested adding reporting of telecasting problems to next month’s agenda and encouraged board members to check the stations occasionally.
Roger Henry, CAT producer, mentioned a fragile situation with a power pole that serves COX.
Discussion of Board recommendations on COX franchise: Hilton asked whether there was any progress in negotiating with COX. Shepherd reported Kit Williams, City Attorney, has been too busy to answer. Smith added that Williams has supplied memos which still apply. Hilton commented he would like to know specific national changes to franchise negotiation legislation. Smith responded that Shepherd attended  a City Council meeting and should have the information. Discussion continued about a Needs and Interest Study. Hilton emphasized he would like to know if the formal process of negotiating is still valid. Bemis reported on the 1999 Needs and Interest study and franchise negotiations of 2001 – 2004. Discussion continued about the weakening of cities’ power to negotiate and the FCC. Tenant commented that he believes the Board has made its recommendation known. Hilton restated his desire to see how negotiations go and then if not acceptable check into it further.
Shepherd summarized previous reports.
Smith reported numbers from quarterly report.
Mark Warren, Interim CAT Administrator, supplied the quarterly service report. Hilton asked that the CAT report be included in the Telecom packet and reiterated a desire that the packets be available a week before the meeting. Tennant suggested Warren mention any events in which the public can be involved. Warren mentioned the annual Fat CAT Awards. Tennant said he would be a judge. Warren said the 30th anniversary of CAT is being planned. He said he would like to have a booth at Bikes, Blues and Bling and BBQ. Hilton offered that location short takes could be good for a 30th celebration activity.
Warren reported on getting new Panasonic cameras and editing systems.
Shepherd asked about the stolen camera. Hilton asked about using KUAF instead of KXUA for message board. Warren said it is only temporary as KXUA has been producing static.
Warren said he has hired two part-time production assistants. Shepherd brought up funding.
David Young spoke to the process of filling Board Member positions, electing officers, changing the FOIA policy in the bylaws, and the CAT Executive Director search.
Shepherd asked for a motion to move the FOIA discussion to this time. Tennant moved. Hilton seconded. All approved.
Hilton read from an included document about the CAT 2009 and 2010 contracts and a change in wording from all business and information to all business information. He added that he believes the intent is for all CAT Board meetings to be covered under the FOIA and it should be clarified in the contract. He read from the AR FOIA handbook. Hilton wanted clarification about why CAT Board meetings were ever exempted from FOIA laws.
Tennant responded about gray areas and the ruling by the City Attorney and private contractors.
Shepherd stated his belief in the public's right to know. He spoke of the Telecom Board’s and the CAT Board’s plans to clarify the issue in their bylaws. Hilton asked if it was not already in the CAT bylaws. Young responded that it reads consistent with the City Attorney’s opinion. He said he believes that doesn’t do it and that it needs to be stated similarly  to what he stated and that it should be included in the RFP or at least that the Board would say they’d like to be open to the public. He mentioned a recent court case ruling dealing with contractors with City money that sort of supports the City position. He reiterated that his desire is not to participate in closed meetings.
Hilton added that one of the Telecom Board duties is to create an open and transparent government.
Hilton and Shepherd discussed the need for a meeting and planning the date via email.
Tennant spoke of setting the date for a meeting at noon on May 6th and that Russell and Leder plan to attend. He said they had just applied for funding from Broadband Stimulus and Google for fiber.
Shepherd called for suggestions of points to include and Hilton responded that that has already been done and is in document form and he will forward them to Shepherd.
Shepherd called for a motion to hold an election. There was discussion between Tennant, Hilton, and Shepherd about whether to wait or not. August is the month to elect new officers. Shepherd asked for nominations. Hilton nominated Tennant. Leder seconded. All approved.
The first item about CAT FOIA had already been covered.
Hilton mentioned the included document and discussed the need to decide who to include in the process and how to solicit participants in an objective and neutral manner. Shepherd mentioned Hilton’s request that it be done in conjunction with the public-access Request For Proposals.
Hilton added that there is an agenda item about increasing the funding and making it more independent of the political process. Shepherd talked some about the franchise fees.
Hilton brought back up the brainstorming and wanting to strengthen the PEG channels. Franchise fee amounts were discussed and Hilton told of many cities that provide 100 percent of the fees for their PEG channels. He suggested that the board ask for a larger percentage.
Hilton returned to the question at hand about participation in the brainstorming session. Tennant supported helping to put the session together. Hilton proposed creating a committee. Tennant suggested just recruiting. Hilton wanted more specificity.
 Shepherd asked Bemis for suggestions. Bemis mentioned Walt Eilers’ report of the successful spring brainstorming session and recommendations that were included. Bemis identified the need for follow up.
Hilton stated a desire to assign at least two board members to put this session together. Leder agreed to help. Hilton asked to recruit a person from the community to make a committee of three. Shepherd asked about a CAT board member. Hilton cautioned neutrality. Hilton suggested that he and Leder decide how to proceed and Shepherd confirmed.

David A.  Young complimented the interest, energy and support by the telecom Board for FOIA and the open meeting for CAT.
Bemis talked about the Fayetteville Forward Communications Group and lack of the two groups working together and encouraged attendance.
 Bemis apologized that his 2008 complaint was originally to Board members and City employees who are no longer serving; that his complaint is really to see that the issues are resolved. He started to read a couple of paragraphs of his original complaint.
 Hilton questioned that had not the Board, in the February meeting, passed a motion to request that the Government Channel manager televise the CAT Board meetings, as Bemis had requested, to his ability according to resources. Hilton’s question to Bemis was if the manager had ever replied to his request. Bemis replied that he would like to address that at the next Telecom Board meeting. He said he didn’t get a reply from anyone. He did not get a reply to his formal complaint so it would be a complete complaint. Hilton suggested the request should go in writing to the Government Channel manager.
Bemis returned to his complaint as a fourth reminder that has never been considered by the Telecom Board. He talked about all of the changes in persons involved and the policies and procedures.  He mentioned the change in procedures and the organizational chart for the entities involved which have not been discussed by the Telecommunications Board. He pointed out the shift to a manager of the Television Center away from a Cable Administrator based on a recommendation by the previous policy advisor from 2008. He said that at that time the Telecom Board voted to have the City provide procedures to be used by the Fayetteville Communications Channel. He added that the then policy advisor agreed to review and provide the procedures and it was never done. He said that is why he has suggested reviewing the roles and responsibilities of the entities involved; the City, the Telecom Board, and the City Council. He asked what are their respective responsibilities in administering the policies and procedures for the Government Channel and for the other PEG channels?
Bemis brought up issue forums and debate forums.
Bemis said this has been going on since 2006 when it was decided, by the Board, to change the policies to procedures. He stated the importance is that policies are over seen by the Telecom Board and procedures are under the authority of the City and their organizational chart. Again he stressed the importance of having a clear organizational chart and the responsibilities of the individuals involved. He talked about the ambiguity and the difficulty for the present Government Channel Manager to interpret policies. Bemis said Smith, the Communications Director, and Marr, the Chief of Staff, have the same problems.
Bemis and Shepherd talked about the 2008 forum on forums when the previous Administration had attempted to revise the Government Channel policies to exclude forums.
Hilton added that the complaints by Bemis are an attempt to explain why the Telecom Board is trying to rewrite the Government Channel policy; to clear up the problems. Hilton said the procedure for appeals also has to be cleared up.
Bemis read from his October 2008 complaint which he said has never been considered by the Board. Bemis’s complaint revolved around a process to revise the Government Channel policy which was created by one individual who worked independently of the Board and that the alternative recommendations of the Telecom Government Channel Policy Subcommittee were not considered. Bemis clarified that the City Council had asked for a revised policy which would be clearer to everyone.
Shepherd added that the Telecom Board had taken forward a revision to junk what they considered to be a mistaken issue to the Council and one Council member asked for a full revision. Shepherd stated he feels those involved on the Subcommittee believe it would be to change back to what it was is what they are basically writing in. Hilton agreed.
Shepherd questioned Bemis as to what he wants the Board to do.
Bemis answered that the purpose is to ensure that the policy and procedures are approved by the appropriate entities; that the policy is reviewed by, developed by and recommendations made by the Telecom Board rather than by the City. He stated that as it is now almost anything can be done under the procedures at the discretion of the City in how they interpret the confusing policy. Bemis reiterated that the policy has not been reviewed, procedures were never developed by the City, and the policy committee has not been considered. Bemis concluded with saying that the recommendation is to ensure that “policy” is overseen by the Board rather than as procedure as controlled by City staff. He said there are many legal reasons why that should not happen; number one being that City staff stand in the shoes of the state.
Bemis referred again to documents submitted of events from 2008 to date which are no longer on the forum; institutional memory is another issue he stated.
Bemis read from his previously submitted complaint that his request and recommendation to the City Council is that they appoint an ad hoc subcommittee, as they did in 2003, to review the policies and procedures. He complained that there is no organizational chart that is followed to show the Telecom Board’s position in assigning these procedures and policies and where it fits in the franchising process. He added that the authority is given to the Board in an ordinance but that others are doing it.
Shepherd again asked what action Bemis would like.
Bemis answered that he expects the policy committee to follow through with what it had begun in July 2008 and make those recommendations in a complete, comprehensive report to the City Council.
Shepherd called for a motion that states that the Board supports Bemis’s complaint and is planning to persevere in completing that process. Tennant moved and Hilton seconded. Hilton added that this is merely confirming what the Board has already decided to do in a previous vote. The vote passed.
Shepherd requested Bemis’s  documents be added to the record.
Bemis asked for a restatement of what passed and Hilton added that he wants to add the statement that the Board write that policy and not be unduly influenced by City staff. Shepherd mentioned Hilton’s previous position as City staff and possible influence.
Bemis added that the roles of the Board, City Council and City staff need to be reestablished by somebody in the City because they are not clear now to anyone.
Shepherd asked Hilton if that topic and that of PEG channel availability in hotels, motels and apartments could be held until next month. Hilton responded that he would like to briefly deal with both of those.
Hilton said the key thing the Board needs to know, which the Board had asked of the City staff, was the total budget, including capital expenditure, for the operation of the Television Center. Hilton requested the number of the total expenditures for the Television Center for next month. Hilton moved that a written request be sent to the City staff. Leder seconded. Motion passed.
Hilton commented that in one hotel the Public Access channel was black and in the place of Channel 16 he saw a Springdale City Council. He suggested perhaps the telecom Board look in to that and influence it.
Hilton said that in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette Cable listing there is only one PEG channel, channel 16, listed as local access. He recommended perhaps a letter to the newspaper suggesting they include all three PEG channels. Shepherd responded that perhaps a listing of the internet link because that listing is produced far ahead by someone out of the state and that the Government Channel schedule is too day to day. Hilton corrected that it is not a program schedule but a listing of channels and reiterated that there is no listing for 14 or 18 and 16 is Springdale, in hotels and apartments.
 Shepherd said they would make a motion to formally ask them do something about the listing in the newspaper.
 Hilton again suggested that Board members check out what is being done in apartments. He stated that to him it is really bothersome for Fayetteville to support two access channels and to have one of them be black and the other one replaced by another city’s channel. He said it’s probably done legally but he thinks it is almost criminal.  Shepherd agreed that both channels serve Fayetteville well.
Hilton added that it would be in conjunction with the City’s policy to promote Fayetteville to have those channels in hotels, motels and apartments. There was discussion about the business owners being responsible for the choice of what comes to the rooms and their lack of knowledge about the stations.
Hilton made a motion that the Board members check at least one hotel, motel or apartment to become better informed. Shepherd suggested working with the management or using a lobby television. Tennant said for all to gather some information and add the item to the next agenda.
Roger Henry, CAT Board, commented on the KXUA static problem which is being fixed. He volunteered to gather some information about apartments.
Henry added that the CAT policy committee had removed all reference to videotaping because the technology changes so quickly.
Henry responded to the call for suggestions about brainstorming and FOIA. He mentioned that at the CAT retreat the board members were getting to know each other and he was glad he wasn’t being recorded; that he wouldn’t have said some of the things that he said. Shepherd responded, and Hilton agreed, that that is why those meetings should be taped so people wouldn’t say some of those things.
Henry spoke about the constitution of the new CAT Board and its responsibility to raise money.
He added that the CAT board policy committee is recommending to the CAT board that it formalize all complaint procedures. He said the recommendation is to not let anything go for more than thirty days without written and public acknowledgement and resolution.
Henry agreed with Bemis ‘s concern with institutional memory and the challenge of changing Board members.
Henry also talked about the limitations of the CAT equipment and agreed with the need for a greater percentage of the franchise fees.
Hilton commented that a camera can often be a civilizing effect.
Hilton asked for confirmation that someone would write to the newspaper and get the listing corrected. Shepherd said he would sign a letter if Hilton wrote a good one.
No discussion because Shepherd said Media Star crashes when meetings go too long.
Tennant moves. Cusanelli seconded. All approved.

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